UNAIDS calls for lifting of HIV travel bans

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BANGKOK (AFP) – UNAIDS, backed by hundreds of parliamentarians, called Sunday for the lifting of travel restrictions on HIV-positive people which are still by imposed by 52 countries.

Complete entry bans on HIV-positive visitors are in place in 11 countries, including Singapore and China, while other restrictions including the refusal of residency rights remain elsewhere, including Australia and New Zealand.

"There's no reason to have these travel restrictions now, it's not based in public health rationale, and they're depriving people of their basic rights," UNAIDS chief Michel Sidibe said at an international meeting of lawmakers.

"We are calling for global freedom of movement for people living with HIV," he said in the Thai capital.

Sidibe said that many of the countries had enacted laws restricting HIV-positive people during the 1980s, when the newly discovered virus triggered mass panic.

But since then research on the epidemic has shown that giving people with the virus freedom of movement poses no hazard, he said.

The United States overturned its HIV travel ban in January, while China and Ukraine are currently debating similar moves.

The restrictions on HIV-positive people "needlessly rob them of their dignity and equal rights," said Theo-Ben Gurirab, president of the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The assembly brought together 680 lawmakers from 128 countries who backed the UN's call.

UNAIDS said its appeal on travel restrictions was the beginning of a global advocacy campaign that would target country leaders and mobilise civil society groups to act.

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