China Lifts Long-standing Travel Ban on HIV Positive People

China's State Council this week lifted restrictions against HIV positive visitors dating from the late 1980s, echoing similar moves by the United States and South Korea earlier this year. The change will also apply to people with other sexually transmitted diseases and leprosy.

According to the Xinhua News Agency, the State Council said that "after gaining more knowledge about the diseases, the government has realized that such ban has a very limited effect in preventing and controlling diseases in the country. It has, instead, caused inconvenience for the country when hosting various international activities."

"Previously, China viewed HIV/AIDS as an imported disease related to a corrupted lifestyle," Qingdao University professor and Chinese AIDS advocate Zhang Beichuan told Xinhua. "But now the government handles it with a public health perspective."

"This decision should inspire other nations to change laws and policies that continue to discriminate against people living with HIV," said Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, in a statement released by the agency. "Many policies that discriminate against people living with HIV were enacted at a time when AIDS was surrounded by widespread fear and hopelessness. With HIV prevention and treatment now saving millions of lives, this is no longer the case. Policies that help curb discrimination can help prevent further transmission."

"I commend President Hu Jintao for China's decision to remove travel restrictions based on HIV status," said United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in a statement put out by UNAIDS. "Punitive policies and practices only hamper the global AIDS response. I urge all other countries with such restrictions to remove them as a matter of priority and urgency."

The UNAIDS statement adds that the organization "strongly opposes any laws that restrict movement based on HIV-positive status only; such restrictions are discriminatory and do not prevent HIV transmission or protect public health." Further, "travel restrictions have no economic justification, as people living with HIV can lead long and productive working lives."

According to UNAIDS, 51 countries, territories, and areas currently impose some form of travel restriction on the entry, stay and residence of HIV positive people based on their HIV status; 5 countries deny visas to people with HIV for even short-term stays; and 23 deport individuals when their HIV positive status is discovered.



UNAIDS. China lifts travel ban for people living with HIV. Press release. April 27, 2010.

Kaiser Family Foundation. China Lifts Decades-Old HIV/AIDS Travel Ban. Kaiser Daily Global Health Policy Report. April 28, 2010.

Xinhua News Agency. China lifts entry ban on HIV/AIDS foreigners. Xinhua/China Daily. April 28, 2010.

CNN Wire Staff. WHO commends China on repeal of AIDS ban. CNN. April 28, 2010.