The United Nations agency spearheading the world body’s efforts to tackle the HIV/AIDS pandemic today welcomed the decision of the United States to remove 22-year-old entry restrictions based on HIV status.
Michel Sidibé, Executive Director of the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), issued a statement saying the move by US President Barack Obama overturns a restriction that was discriminatory and did not protect public health.
“Today’s announcement reinforces the position of the US as a global leader in HIV policy and practice,” Mr. Sidibé said. “This policy change is a significant step forward by the United States towards promoting human rights in the AIDS response.”
The statement noted that the US Government had already concluded that maintaining HIV status on a list of excludable entry conditions would not result in public health benefits and contributed towards the stigmatization of HIV-infected people.
Mr. Obama announced the change today as he signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009, which has provided treatment and support services to people living with HIV since 1990.
The legislation is named after Ryan White, a teenage boy who became a nationally known figure in the US in the 1980s as he battled discrimination and ostracism after contracting HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. He died in 1990.
Mr. Sidibé said UNAIDS described the Ryan White programme “as an integral part of the global AIDS response and a gesture of the United States towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support for people within the United States living with HIV.”