U.N. Secretary-General Calls for End of Discrimination Against, Travel Restrictions on People Living With HIV/AIDS
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon at the opening of the U.N. 2008 High Level Meeting on AIDS on Tuesday called on the international community to end discrimination against HIV-positive people, including travel restrictions, describing such practices as "an affront to our common humanity," Xinhuanet reports. Ban also said that such discrimination "drives the virus underground, where it can spread in the dark; as important, it is an affront to our common humanity" (Xinhuanet, 6/10). Ban said that 60 years after the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, "it is shocking that there should still be discrimination against those at high risk, such as men who have sex with men, or stigma attached to individuals living with HIV."
According to UNAIDS, 74 countries have travel restrictions in place for HIV-positive people, including a mention of the disease on their passports. Twelve countries -- Armenia, Colombia, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Solomon Islands, South Korea, Sudan, the U.S. and Yemen -- bar entry to people with HIV/AIDS, often citing public health concerns and the high cost of treatment. Three hundred forty-five nongovernmental organizations signed and sent a letter to worldwide leaders and ambassadors to urge countries that impose travel restrictions to lift them. President Elias Antonio Saca of El Salvador, who lifted travel restrictions in the country four years ago, said he supports the NGOs' petition. "I appeal to the international community and all governments for the scrapping of walls and barriers which restrict the free movement of people living with HIV," Saca said. Innocent Laison, a member of the Senegalese NGO AfriCASO, also denounced the travel restrictions, saying that countries that enforce them allow their own HIV-positive citizens to travel abroad (AFP/Yahoo! News, 6/10).
Also at the meeting, Anthony Fauci, director of NIH's National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that more efforts should be made to develop and safe and effective HIV/AIDS vaccine following the cancellation of a Merck trial last year. "Such disappointments are not unusual,' Fauci said, adding, "Researchers normally experience numerous setbacks and disappointments, yet they persevere. Finding a safe and effective HIV vaccine requires the same kind of resolve" (Lauerman, Bloomberg, 6/10).
Archived webcasts of the sessions will be available after 5 p.m. ET on June 18 at kaisernetwork.org.