Advocates Discuss Travel Restrictions Around the World for People Living With HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS advocates on Tuesday at the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City discussed travel restrictions around the world for people living with HIV/AIDS, the AP/Los Angeles Times reports.
Developed countries say such restrictions help them avoid the cost of caring for HIV-positive people from other nations, but advocates say research shows that countries without restrictions have not had to do so on a significant scale. According to the European AIDS Treatment Group, seven nations -- Brunei, Oman, Qatar, Sudan, South Korea, United Arab Emirates and Yemen -- deny entry for people living with HIV and 30 countries deport foreigners reported to have HIV. In addition, more than 65 nations enforce some degree of travel restriction for HIV-positive individuals.
Australia currently allows people living with HIV to enter the country but requires testing for those intending to work in the medical field and for sub-Saharan Africans seeking to study (Watson, AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/5). In a radio interview last year, then-Australian Prime Minister John Howard said that his initial reaction was to oppose the immigration of HIV-positive people but added that he needed "more counsel" on the issue (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 4/13/07).
The bill (HR 5501) signed into law last week by President Bush that reauthorizes the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief through 2013 also includes a provision that eases U.S. HIV/AIDS travel restrictions. However, it is not clear whether HHS plans to address the restrictions in the near future. HHS in 1987 placed HIV on a list of diseases barring entry into the U.S. Although that prohibition is separate from the congressionally imposed travel restrictions eased in the PEPFAR bill, federal health officials are no longer bound by law to keep HIV on the list.
Neither HHS nor CDC -- which is under the jurisdiction of HHS and would make recommendations about the travel restrictions -- commented on the provision last week, though advocates expressed hope that the ban would be repealed (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 7/31).
According to Craig McClure, executive director of the International AIDS Society, China plans to lift its HIV/AIDS travel restrictions at a later date, and countries such as Russia and the United Arab Emirates are revising their policies. "The U.S. always sets the tone," McClure said, adding, "This is huge not only for the people who have not been able to enter the U.S., but finally these laws might be overturned throughout the world" (AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/5).
In China, government "agencies, including the Ministry of Health and the General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine, have reached consensus on the issue," Hao Yang, deputy director of the ministry's disease control and prevention bureau, said. After performing the necessary administrative and legal procedures, "the HIV/AIDS restrictions will be lifted in 2009", he added (Shan, China Daily, 8/6).
In his opening address at the conference, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the travel restrictions on people living with HIV "should fill us with shame." Ron MacInnis, policy director for IAS, said travel restrictions "imped[e] our ability to control HIV and AIDS" and compel HIV-positive people to conceal their status. He added that it is "blatantly discriminatory to single out people with HIV." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said there is no public health justification for the travel restrictions, adding that they undermine efforts to control HIV/AIDS by implying that the disease can be curbed with tight border restrictions (AP/Los Angeles Times, 8/5).
Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference. A webcast of a conference session on travel bans also is available online.