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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

HIV/AIDS Travel Ban Finally, Officially Over

By Bonnie Goldman

January 4, 2010

The ban on travel or immigration to the U.S. by people living with HIV/AIDS is officially over today. It was an ugly law that had been in place since 1987 and caused countless humiliations. Most students applying for visas to study in the U.S. could not get a visa if they were HIV positive. People from overseas who had the opportunity to work in the U.S. were denied work visas if they were HIV positive. Tourists and businessmen and women were denied visas because of their HIV status.

We will never know all the distress this ban caused at U.S. consulates and borders as men and women with HIV innocently acknowledged their illness only to have their visa application rejected or be denied entry into the U.S. Every person in the U.S. applying for a green card had to be tested for HIV. Today that requirement is no longer necessary.

The announcement regarding the end of the ban was made by President Obama on Oct. 30. He said in a speech, "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."

He continued, "If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that's why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It's a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives."

This is a great step, but it took a stunningly long time to come. We have to thank groups such as Immigration Equality for working so hard to end this law. For details on the ramifications of this law, check out this helpful page.

Copyright © 2010 Body Health Resources Corporation. All rights reserved.

See Also
More on U.S. Immigration Restrictions for People With HIV/AIDS

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Richie (Newcastle (England, UK)) Wed., Jan. 13, 2010 at 2:24 pm UTC
At long last! Thank you Obama! Now I can finally come to US shores! :)
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Comment by: positive j (caribbean) Tue., Jan. 12, 2010 at 2:30 pm UTC
THank you lord
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Comment by: jay (jakarta) Tue., Jan. 12, 2010 at 10:38 am UTC
Now what about all the other countries? Singapore. hope they are next.
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Comment by: maya (india) Sun., Jan. 10, 2010 at 7:24 am UTC
thank you MY GOD, and god bless usa and obama. cheeers with tears of happiness. now i'm sure that the vaccine for sure is coming to cure every human being suffering with the painful and evil stigma of HIV. cheers my brothers and sisters, OM SAI RAM.
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Comment by: Kay (USA) Fri., Jan. 8, 2010 at 4:42 pm UTC
Don't is no longer an issue for entry prohibitions and you will have no problems... Besides, that is not the style of US Customs and Immigration folks... they are kind and respectful Welcome to the USA, enjoy your travels!
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Comment by: pj (ghana) Fri., Jan. 8, 2010 at 8:35 am UTC
oh my. i need to save to make a lifetime dream come true. thanks Bush AND Obama.
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Comment by: John (Birmingham, UK) Fri., Jan. 8, 2010 at 6:26 am UTC
I am still nervous about this. I know that now I can enter the States and should not tick the box titled "Communicable Diseases". Fine. But when the US Customs Official finds my medications, HOW WILL HE TREAT ME, regardless of the legislation which means he cannot stop me entering the country. Will he humiliate me, alone or in front of others? Will he embarrass me in front of other passengers? What measures have been put in place so that red-neck idiots who find a bottle labelled "Viramune" or whatever DON'T loudly ask, "What's this!!!!?", but instead simply, silently, and calmly consult a list with which they have been furnished, and then allow me to go on my way with dignity? You see why I am still wary.
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Comment by: yvrniceguy (Vancouver, BC) Thu., Jan. 7, 2010 at 3:39 pm UTC
Finally! I can not begin to tell you the stress this ban has caused me, and so many others I know, over the years. I have been positive during the entire duration of the ban. As a frequent traveller around the world, I have, as often as possible, avoided travelling through the US because of fears of being deported if my meds were found. Not only has this led to creative travel planning, given that I live on the US border, it has also added significantly to the cost of air travel by arranging itineraries that avoided transiting the United States. And, yes, my American friends, the HIV ban applied to in transit passengers too.

So good riddance. However a note of caution. I work for a Vancouver AIDS organization, and we have had reports this week that US immigration officials working at Vancouver airport and at Wash/BC border stations have not yet been officially informed and are still operation under the travel ban regulations!!!
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Comment by: Wayne Stump (Toronto Ontario Canada) Thu., Jan. 7, 2010 at 3:09 pm UTC
Hello Everyone:

Happy New Year and best wishes for 2010. I have some questions that perhaps some readers may be able to help me with. I am very pleased to learn of the end of the U. S. HIV travel ban as of January 4, 2010. Does this mean that an HIV-positive visitor, all other factors being equal and all other entry requirements (i. e. passports and visas as applicable) being met, can travel to the United States as freely as an HIV-negative visitor, without need to declare his/her HIV status, apply for any special visas or waivers, etc.? If an HIV-positive person carrying antiretrovial medications is asked about them by U. S. Customs and Immigration, can or should that person explain what the medicines are used to treat? Can a Customs official still (incorrectly) stop or delay a traveller from entering the United States based on such a discovery? I am assuming a shorter visit for touristic purposes versus a longer stay for study or employment. Any comments, suggestions or knowledge about this would be most appreciated. Thank you and best regards,

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Comment by: Scott (Toronto, Canada) Wed., Jan. 6, 2010 at 12:39 pm UTC
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Comment by: Justin B Smith (Washington DC) Tue., Jan. 5, 2010 at 2:56 pm UTC
Thank you God
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Comment by: Robert Breining (Levittown , PA) Tue., Jan. 5, 2010 at 11:45 am UTC
This is such a big step forward in the fight against Stigma..
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Comment by: Mark (Perth, Western Australia) Tue., Jan. 5, 2010 at 2:05 am UTC
At last we can now travel to the US without worrying about our meds being found and questions being asked about something that really has no consequence to our travel in the US. As someone who loves to travel to the US I feel more comfortable and confident in doing so. Thanks to President Obama!
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Comment by: anthony (new york, NY) Mon., Jan. 4, 2010 at 9:08 pm UTC
The hopes and fears of thousands of HIVers are finally dealt with today. One more battle won against Stigma, one more step towards a civil society which loves its children and welcomes all people who deserve to live their dreams and their aspirations, in pursue of true happiness.
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On My Mind

Bonnie Goldman

Bonnie Goldman

Bonnie Goldman was's editorial director from its founding in 1995 until January 2010. Previously she was a book editor, journalist and HIV/AIDS activist.

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Recent Posts:

January 28, 2010 - Time for a Change

January 4, 2010 - HIV/AIDS Travel Ban Finally, Officially Over

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