Monday, July 28, 2008

US to lift HIV travel ban

“This week, Congress voted to expand a vital program that is saving lives across the developing world — the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, also known as PEPFAR. I thank members of Congress from both sides of the aisle for working with my Administration to pass this important bill, and I will be honored to sign it into law next week.”

With those words, President Bush on Saturday indicated his strong approval of the PEPFAR legislation passed last week by Congress. The bill provides an additional $48 billion over the next 5 years to fight HIV/AIDS, primarily in sub-Saharan Africa. According to Pres. Bush:

“When we first launched this program five-and-a-half years ago, the scourge of HIV/AIDS had cast a shadow over the continent of Africa. Only 50,000 people with AIDS in sub-Sahara Africa were receiving antiretroviral treatment. Today, PEPFAR is supporting treatment for nearly 1.7 million people in the region. PEPFAR has allowed nearly 200,000 African babies to be born HIV free. And this program is bringing hope to a continent in desperate need.”

But this legislation does more than provide much needed money. The bill also repeals the 20 year ban on travel into the US by HIV positive people. Enacted in 1987, the current policy prevents HIV positive foreigners from obtaining visas as tourists, immigrants, or students. The US is among only a small number of countries worldwide with such a ban. According to Senator Gordon Smith, a Republican from Oregon, “Our government still treats individuals with HIV/AIDS as modern-day lepers, categorically banning these individuals from entering into the US.”

More information about how this new legislation will affect travel to the US by people with HIV/AIDS can be found at the Immigration Equality web site.

Until next time, I’m Dave Wessner.

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