GENEVA, WASHINGTON DC, 4 January 2010 – UNAIDS strongly welcomes the elimination of travel restrictions based on HIV status by the Republic of Korea, effective 1 January 2010. It also commends the United States for full implementation of the final rule that removes entry restrictions which means that travellers living with HIV can freely enter the United States of America as of today.It was announced in September that some travel restrictions on people who are HIV positive would be lifted. The general travel ban has now been lifted, but HIV tests remain for those on E-2, E-6, and E-9 visas. As noted in September, it's up to the Labor Ministry to make decisions about keeping or lifting HIV restrictions on E-9 (migrant worker) visa holders, the E-6 ('entertainer') restrictions will remain, and testing for E-2 visa holders may be lifted depending on the outcome of Andrea Vandom's constitutional court case. One wonders how much the constitutional court case, the NHRCK petitions by English teachers and migrant workers, and the fact that the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific will be held in Busan in 2011 influenced the decision to lift the travel ban.
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon congratulated President Lee Myung-bak on the Republic of Korea’s decision. “I applaud President Lee for his country’s leadership in ending restrictions towards people living with HIV that have no public health benefit,” said Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
“I repeat my call to all other countries with such discriminatory restrictions to take steps to remove them at the earliest.”
The Secretary-General also congratulated President Barack Obama when the US policy change was announced in October 2009. Today’s removal of HIV-related entry, stay and residence restrictions, or "travel ban" as it was known, in the United States overturns a policy that had been in place since 1987.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé also hailed the United States and the Republic of Korea for ending entry restrictions towards people living with HIV, calling the policy changes "a victory for human rights on two sides of the globe."
"I call for global freedom of movement for people living with HIV in 2010, the year when countries have committed to achieve universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support," said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé.
"Let no country obstruct someone because of their HIV status. Such discrimination has no place in today's highly mobile world," Mr Sidibé continued.
Some 57 countries, territories and areas have some form of HIV-specific restriction on entry, stay and residence that is based on HIV status. These include those that completely ban entry of HIV positive people for any reason or length of stay; and/or are applied to visa applications for very short stays (e.g. tourist visas); and/or are applied to visa applications for longer stays (visas for residency, immigration, asylum or resettlement, study, international employment, and consular service). Such restrictions, strongly opposed by UNAIDS, are discriminatory and do not protect public health.
[Update: Newsis covers this here.]