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Obama Announces Ryan White CARE Act Reauthorization, Elimination of HIV Travel Ban

In a White House ceremony on Oct. 30, 2009, U.S. President Barack Obama signed into law an extension of the Ryan White CARE Act, which provides critical funding to HIV/AIDS service organizations throughout the United States. In a 10-minute speech that preceded the signing, Obama spoke candidly about the current state of HIV in the U.S., and also announced that the last vestige of the U.S.'s 22-year-old ban on HIV-positive people entering the country was about to vanish. According to Obama, a formal rule eliminating the ban will go into effect in January 2010.

You can watch the official White House video of the speech and the signing below.



Here is a transcript of two key excerpts from the speech:

"Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic, yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people with HIV from entering our own country. If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that's why, on Monday [Nov. 2], my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban, effective just after the new year. ...

"We can't give Ryan back to Jeanne, back to his mom. But what we can do, what the legislation that I'm about to sign has done for nearly 20 years, is acknowledge the courage that he and his family showed. What we can do is take more action and educate more people. What we can do is keep fighting each and every day until we eliminate this disease from the face of the earth."

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Reader Comments:

Comment by: charles (athens) Sat., Dec. 19, 2009 at 8:22 am EST
this is very good.hiv is not a crime.keep the good job up president OBAMA
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Comment by: K. Jacob Panmei (India) Thu., Nov. 26, 2009 at 5:11 am EST
Its the best beginning. A long way to go. Let us walk together Mr. President.
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Comment by: SHAHIDAH (ATLANTA GA) Tue., Nov. 24, 2009 at 9:02 pm EST
I JUST MOVED TO ATLANTA TO FIND AN EPIDEMIC, THE WORSE PART IS THEY ARE CUTTING SERVICES, MONEY,ECT IN THE WHOLE STATE. THIS AFFECTS US WITH HIV EXTRA HARD, THE REASON: UNDER REPORTING BY PRIVATE SECTOR DOCTORS ABOUT THE VIRUS, BECAUSE OF THIS MONEY IS CUT, SERVICES AND DOCTORS RETIRE. PLEASE THE PRESIDENT OBAMA MUST KNOW OF THIS EPIDEMIC HERE AND I WANT TO ASK THE CDC WHY THEY HAVE NOT REPORTED THIS TO THE PUBLIC SO MOREY MONEY CAN BE ALOCATED TO THIS AREA. THE PRESIDENT MEANS WELL, BUT WITHOUT HELP AND PROPER REPORTING THE VIRUS WILL GET LARGER IN THE USA.
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Comment by: Eduardo (Argentina) Sun., Nov. 22, 2009 at 7:19 pm EST
I was so happily surprised; I lived in the U.S. for many years as a student and have family and friends there, but when I learned I was HIV positive and later had to start treatment (which thank God I can get freely in Argentina) I felt horrible every time I had to hide my meds for fear they'd stop me at the port of entry and even deport me. When I changed to a med that requires refrigeration I even thought I would never be able to visit all my loved ones in that beautiful country. Thanks to all the people that worked to make this true!
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Comment by: londiwe (south africa) Tue., Nov. 17, 2009 at 5:27 am EST
if ever spoken of man of courage, U ARE ONE
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Comment by: Bill (Alabama) Tue., Nov. 17, 2009 at 1:41 am EST
My only fear as resources get scarcer here in the south, and the USA, the aid the we once got has been slashed more and more each year. As we allow other persons to come into our country, is my medical care going to suffer. As some one who lives on a fixed income and relies on the Ryan White based clinics as I can not afford a doctors visit. If the new arrivals aren't going to put more stress on an all ready strained system?
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Comment by: J (arkansas) Mon., Nov. 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm EST
As a point.. Arkansas does indeed contact the health department when you test positive. Then you must tell the health department of any one you have had sexual contact with. They then contact those people. Although I must say I think it depends on which "counselor" you get as to how in depth they really question you. As if it's not hard enough to call your ex and tell him/her you are positive, you also have to deal with the health department as well. oh...and don't get me started on the lack of "hiv" doctors here. There are two in the area I'm from. One of them (mine) only sees patients on Monday, so let me tell you it's always a wait. I've come to terms with living with HIV, but unfortunately, most people still view it as a "gay" disease here in Arkansas.
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Comment by: JOHNSON (SPAIN) Sat., Nov. 14, 2009 at 1:46 am EST
GOD BLESS U PRESIDENT OBAMA.
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Comment by: blue (philipiness) Wed., Nov. 11, 2009 at 2:21 am EST
wow happy to have this. hope that they can discover a medicine to really heal the hiv virus.
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Comment by: goodman (dublin,ireland) Mon., Nov. 9, 2009 at 8:46 pm EST
i can only say ''thank u Obama, i love u or rather we love u'' i'm african living in Ireland with HIV. i've worked hard and applied for USA visa just to come and buy DODGE NITRO for use in my home country. my country uses LHD vehicles like USA but my visa application was refused. i'm now 100% sure i will buy my dream car february 2010. thank u so much.
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Comment by: elise n (Durham Nc,) Fri., Nov. 6, 2009 at 10:35 am EST
Hi obama i saw the video a boy ryan white and i was sad for him because he was being treated different becuase he had hiv this week we are learnig about hiv/aids. thank and hope to meet you one day.
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Comment by: Ryan (South Africa) Thu., Nov. 5, 2009 at 11:48 pm EST
Thank you, President Obama, not only for lifting the ban, but proving that you will help fight the stigma. You are a mover and shaker.
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Comment by: Alex (Canada) Thu., Nov. 5, 2009 at 1:19 pm EST
Common sense prevails at long last.
President Obama has kept his word and washed away the fears and Bush smoke and mirrors act.

Now we will be able to travel freely into the USA under the same conditions as Canada extends to USA and other world citzens.
An end to discrimination is at hand
Thank you Obama
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Comment by: ted (uk) Wed., Nov. 4, 2009 at 4:51 pm EST
As a Flight attendant, thank goodness I will no longer have to hide my medication in vitamin bottles when entering the USA for work purposes. This is such good news and makes my life a lot easier, I was never comfortable hiding my meds. I can now also take my partner away with me to all the lovely cities I visit in your country. Thank you, I am so glad this era is coming to an end
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Comment by: Chim (Orlando, FL) Wed., Nov. 4, 2009 at 12:25 pm EST
Wanted to shed some light on how they knew if one was HIV+ for immigrants wanting to enter the US. The US immigration law requires all immigrants wanting to enter the US as permanent residents to do medical exams. The HIV test is one of the tests they do during these medicals and before the ban was lifted, if one was HIV+ they would be denied the application for permanent residence, unless one applied for a waiver. Now that the ban has been lifted, this is going to stop. Keep up the good work president Obama!
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Comment by: James Clark (Tucson, Arizona) Wed., Nov. 4, 2009 at 11:22 am EST
Does anyone know if the newly extended Ryan White Act restored the provision to allow exposure reporting for pre-hospital/EMS employees? I believe it was stricken from the legislation in December of 2006. Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thank you. jbclark@umcaz.edu
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Comment by: hb (sacramento, CA) Tue., Nov. 3, 2009 at 6:07 pm EST
I don't know what to say when I found out that it was finally signed by Pres. Obama. Thank you very much. at least this is one of the changed that he made that a lot of people will be grateful. Now my relative can come here w/out any fear of getting deny. I will not forget this changes.
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Comment by: Ted (Louisville, KY USA) Tue., Nov. 3, 2009 at 2:40 am EST
Jon, thanks for the info. As I said, I always wondered how officials would know whether someone had HIV. I suppose this is just like the ban on gays donating blood. The questionaire depends on people answering honestly. In the states, it asks you whether you've ever had sex with a male. I believe the only thing asked of straight people is whether they've ever sold body for money or drugs. If you're straight, you can do 1,000 people and donate blood. Makes no sense! How absurd to screen blood by asking people whether they are gay. At least travel ban was lifted here. Now, we have to work on blood donation.
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Comment by: Jon (London UK) Mon., Nov. 2, 2009 at 2:24 pm EST
Hi Ted,

The only way they knew if you are HIV+ (for a tourist visit) is if you were found with your medication on entry/exit to the usa. Therefore the ban (for non migrant visitors like myself) only worked by potentially penalizing those who were probably less infectious (due to lower viral loads on treatment) and/or fully aware of their HIV status anyway.

This encouraged HIV+ patients on treatment to leave their meds at home during short visits to the usa and risk further health problems/resistance to their drugs and higher infectiousness to others too.

It wasnt logical for the US government or anyone's health when you think about it as patient's unaware or more infectious (relatively) has no problem visiting the USA.

On the point of admitting your HIV status -you had to tick a question yes/no as part of your entry papers saying you had no infectious disease of 'public health significance' and they just took your word I think.

I wonder if there are any foreigners to the USA who found they couldnt enter after having been infected by a US HIV+ citizen? -that would have been v. uncomfortably ironic!

Anyway its all over soon... That's the important thing!
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Comment by: Joon Jira (Udonthani, TH) Sun., Nov. 1, 2009 at 5:05 am EST
Thank you President Obama .I can entry to the USA and be with my husband soon.
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Comment by: Loreen Willenberg (Sacramento, CA) Sun., Nov. 1, 2009 at 12:29 am EDT
What you do not hear are my hands loudly clapping and what you do not see are my tears of happiness flowing!!

This is one historical day for the national & international PLWHA (People Living with HIV/AIDS) community. Thank you, President Obama, for signing the Ryan White CARE Act renewal, and for lifting the U.S. Travel Ban. Whoo hoo!!

All the best,
Loreen
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Comment by: Ted (Louisville, KY USA) Sat., Oct. 31, 2009 at 8:51 pm EDT
I've always wondered how this ban worked. Since I've never been out of the U.S. besides Canada and Mexico, I didn't know how they would know whether someone had HIV.

Do countries with the ban ask you whether you have HIV and just rely on people to be honest? I can't imagine some kind of medical database that tells them you have HIV. Having said that, I believe here in the states your name is reported to the Board of Health and CDC--unless you test annonoumously. I'm so glad the ban has been lifted. If anyone knows the answer to my question, please post a reply.
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Comment by: Brenda (london uk) Sat., Oct. 31, 2009 at 6:35 am EDT
As someone who was refused entry to the USA on these grounds last year, words can not express how excited i am about this, at last there is a light at the end of the tunnel Well Done Obama and the people who supported this May God Bless You.
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Comment by: jon (London UK) Fri., Oct. 30, 2009 at 4:45 pm EDT
A watershed moment has arrived thanks to the efforts of both the major political parties in the USA. I personally thought i'd still be looking at having to be interrogated at the U.S. Embassy in London to enter the country legally or chacing it. Now a dream trip to the wide open spaces of the States will be possible without being a victim of bureaucracy and stigmatisation and subject to personal fear of deportation or lifelong ban from travel to the USA. I am overjoyed about being able to visit freely for a couple of weeks at a time! - I can only imagine how families and partners of those affected by this antiquated travel ban in the longterm feel today.

Frustrated that it was a long time coming compared to the world but very glad its finally here!
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