US eases travel restrictions on HIV+ people

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The White House used World Aids Day last week to announce a change in the rules relating to people with HIV travelling into the USA.

President Bush made no mention of travel restrictions during his remarks to the press on Friday, focusing instead on the problems AIDS poses in Africa.

He pledged $15bn to continue programmes to make retroviral drugs available to people in developing nations.

Minor administration officials were tasked with revealing the President’s new position on travellers with HIV.

“This administration is very serious about fighting discrimination on AIDS,” U.S. Global AIDS co-ordinator Mark Dybul said during a telephone interview with The San Francisco Chronicle after the President’s White House set-piece address.

The ban originates from 1987, when fear about the spread of the disease led US officials to require anyone with HIV to declare their status and apply for a special waiver visa. This led to many people not declaring their status upon arrival. It also meant that no international AIDS conferences could be held on US soil.

President Bush will use an executive order to allow HIV+ people a “categorical waiver,” similar to the 60 day automatic visas that UK business and tourist visitors receive. It is not yet clear if US immigration will still require people to declare their HIV status.

Eric Sawyer, a co-founder of ACT UP in New York, told The San Francsico Chronicle that the new arrangements did not go far enough.

“We shouldn’t have to get a waiver, period,” he said. AIDS activists have called for all restrictions to be lifted.