Ukraine, a nation of about 40 million people has one of Europe's highest HIV infection rates. The Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) estimates that Ukraine had 290,000 people living with HIV in 2014. Ukraine has now removed its restriction on entry and foreign travel for HIV-positive people as part of growing efforts to improve relations with Europe after decades of Moscow rule.
The ex-Soviet state's Deputy Health Minister Igor Pereginets said, "The repeal of the 14-year ban was one of the conditions put forward by the European Union (EU) in the ongoing visa-free travel talks. This regulation was repealed (in June) for both Ukrainian citizens traveling abroad and for foreigners entering Ukraine."
Kiev hopes to strike an unrestricted travel agreement with Brussels next year and apply for an EU membership by 2020. Ukraine's human rights commissioner called the health ministry's decision as a significant step forward in the defense of human rights. Commissioner Valeriya Lutkovska's office said, "Ukraine now joins some 140 progressive nations that also lifted such bans."
UNAIDS had reported a prevalence rate for adults aged 15 to 49 years of 1.2%, the same as Ethiopia's and higher than Democratic Republic of the Congo that year. But the global agency also believes the infection rate has been slowing for most of the past decade thanks to state-sponsored awareness programs. UNAIDS has congratulated Ukraine for being the first country in eastern Europe to reduce new HIV infections between 2001 and 2012.