China announced Tuesday that it had lifted travel restrictions for foreigners with HIV and AIDS ahead of the 2010 Expo.
The State Council, or cabinet, announced that an amendment to the law on the entry of foreigners into China had removed the travel ban on HIV/AIDS carriers to the nation effective Tuesday.
AdvertisementThe newly amended law was published in full on the government website.
State press reports said the move would be made ahead of the opening Saturday of the Shanghai World Expo which is expecting up to 100 million visitors during its six-month run.
Although most of the visitors are expected to be Chinese, up to four million foreigners could attend the Expo.
The new law was immediately praised by the United Nations.
"I commend President Hu Jintao for China?s decision to remove travel restrictions based on HIV status," UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement.
"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."
World Health Organisation Director General Margaret Chan welcomed the removal of entry restrictions on foreigners.
"China?s decision to categorically remove HIV/AIDS from the list of conditions subject to entry restrictions is a significant step in the right direction," Chan said in a statement.
"This decision should inspire other nations to change laws and policies that continue to discriminate against people living with HIV."
More than 50 countries still have laws or restrictions that effectively marginalise people with HIV, including sex workers, young people, and men who have sex with men, according to the WHO.
Such hurdles limit their access to vital prevention, treatment, care and support services, Chan noted.
"Policies that help curb discrimination can help prevent further transmission," she added.
According to official statistics, China has 740,000 HIV-positive people.