An international task force on HIV/AIDS-related travel restrictions chaired by UNAIDS and the Norwegian government is calling on nations worldwide to remove such bans, AFP/Yahoo! News reports. According to UNAIDS, about 74 countries have imposed HIV/AIDS-related travel restrictions, and 13 of them have banned people living with the virus from entering the countries entirely.
The task force -- which includes governments, United Nations agencies, civil society groups and HIV-positive people -- met for the first time from Feb. 25-26 in Geneva. The task force is expected to discuss issues surrounding the travel restrictions at several meetings in the next few months, including an HIV/AIDS meeting at the U.N. General Assembly in June and the Global Forum on Migration and Development in October.
According to a UNAIDS statement, HIV-positive people while in their destination country can face deportation "often without confidentiality and into situations of great discrimination and economic devastation." UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said that HIV/AIDS-related travel restrictions illustrate the "exceptionality of AIDS." He added, "No other condition prevents people from entering countries for business, tourism or to attend meetings. No other condition has people afraid of having their baggage searched for medication at the border, with the result that they are denied entry or worse -- detained and then deported back to their country." UNAIDS said that it hopes that "combined efforts" from members of the task force will "influence governments to remove such restrictions" (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/7).
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