World Aids Day 2012

On the eve of World AIDS Day 2012, more than 40 top business leaders have called for the repeal of travel bans that restrict the freedom of movement of people living with HIV. For nearly 23 years beginning in 1987, HIV-positive immigrants and travelers were banned from entering the United States. But that changed on January 4, 2010, when the U.S. Government officially lifted its HIV travel and immigration ban. President Obama announted the repeal of the HIV travel and immigration ban on Oct. 30, 2009 when he signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, Public Law 111–87. See Medical Examination of Aliens—Removal of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Infection from Definition of Communicable Disease of Public Health Significance, 75 Fed. Reg. 56547 (Nov. 2, 2009) (to be codified at 42 CFR Part 34). The ban went into effect after a 60-day waiting period. Other countries like Armenia, China, Fiji, Moldova, Namibia, South Korea and Ukraine have also removed such restrictions in recent years. However, countries including Australia, Russia, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates still maintain HIV travel bans as law.

Many countries enacted travel restrictions “to protect the public health” in the 1980s when ignorance, fear and prejudice surrounded HIV. Since then, effective HIV prevention has revolutionized the lives of people living with HIV so that they are fully productive workers living long and healthy lives. Newer treatments reduce the amount of HIV in one’s body to an undetectable level, lowering the possibility of transmitting HIV to someone else by some 96%. There is no evidence that HIV travel restrictions protect public health. The travel ban leads some professionals to leave their HIV medicines at home during business trips for fear that their pills will be discovered by airport agents. Skipping one’s HIV medication can lead to drug resistance, a troubling and expensive public health concern.

For these reasons, CEOs of more than 40 companies, including Levi Strauss & Co. and Kenneth Cole Production, issued a press release and pledge calling on the 45 remaining governments to lift their travel restrictions. These CEOs lead some of the world’s largest companies from Johnson & Johnson to The Coca-Cola Company from the National Basketball Association to Heineken, Pfizer and Aetna. They represent industries from travel to technology from banking to mining and almost 2 million employees around the world.

For information on the topic of HIV-Related Restrictions on Entry, Stay and Residence, see the Brooklyn Law School Library’s online resource Discrimination, Denial, and Deportation: Human Rights Abuses Affecting Migrants Living with HIV published by Human Rights Watch.