President Obama on Friday called an end to the 22-year ban on travel to the United States by people tested positive for HIV, fulfilling a promise he made to gay advocates and acting to eliminate a restriction he said was “rooted in fear rather than fact.”
Obama made the announcement as he signed the fourth reauthorization of the federal program named for Ryan White, an Indiana boy who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion. The program, started in 1990, provides funds for HIV-related care.
Obama said that lifting the ban is a “step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment. It’s a step that will keep families together, and it’s a step that will save lives.”
“We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country,” he said. “If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it,” he said.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act authorizes a 5 percent annual increase in federal support over the next four years. Funding under the law is scheduled to rise from more than $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2010 to nearly $3 billion in fiscal year 2013.
The measure passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives last week. Similar legislation first passed almost 20 years ago and was reauthorized in 1996, 2000 and 2006.
The process to end the travel ban was started last year by Congress and the Bush administration. The president said his administration will finish it by publishing the final rules on Monday to eliminate the ban. The ban is expected to be lifted early next year.