UN chief Ban Ki-moon hailed US President Barack Obama's removal of a decades-old travel ban on HIV-positive visitors, and urged other countries to do the same.
"I congratulate President Obama on announcing the removal of the travel restrictions for people living with HIV from entering the United States," Ban said on Saturday in a statement released by UNAIDS, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS.
Advertisement"I urge all other countries with such restrictions to take steps to remove them at the earliest."
Obama announced his administration would overturn on Monday a controversial US policy that had been in place since 1987. The ban on foreign nationals with HIV/AIDS visiting the United States will effectively be lifted early next year.
"Such restrictions, strongly opposed by UNAIDS, are discriminatory and do not protect public health," the program said.
Ban has made the lifting of stigma and discrimination connected with AIDS a personal mission, first calling on countries to lift their travel restrictions in 2008 at a UN meeting on the disease.
The travel restrictions "should fill us all with shame," Ban told a global AIDS conference in August 2008.
According to UNAIDS, Ban's home country of South Korea is "in the last stages of removing travel restrictions," while China and Ukraine are among countries considering following suit.
"Placing travel restrictions on people living with HIV has no public health justification. It is also a violation of human rights," said UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibe.
On Friday, as he signed a bill reauthorizing funding for a federal program providing HIV-related health care, Obama announced the repeal of the travel ban, describing the 22-year-old policy as a "decision rooted in fear rather than fact."
"If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama said.
"And that's why on Monday, my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year."
Obama's predecessor, George W. Bush, signed legislation last year that removed HIV from a list of diseases "of public health significance" that effectively barred any person infected with HIV from entering the United States.
But the law was not implemented by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates US immigration authorities in some instances.
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