Page last updated at 18:27 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Obama to lift HIV entry ban soon

Barack Obama: "It's a step that will encourage people to get tested"

The US is to end its 22-year ban on people with HIV entering the country, President Barack Obama has confirmed.

Mr Obama made the announcement as he extended funding for an act that provides HIV/Aids related health care.

"If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/Aids, we need to act like it," Mr Obama said.

The US is one of only about a dozen countries barring entry on HIV status. The ban is expected to be lifted at the beginning of 2010.

'End the stigma'

Mr Obama confirmed the move as he signed the Ryan White HIV/Aids Treatment Extension Act.

He said the entry ban had been "rooted in fear rather than fact".

He said: "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 with HIV from entering our own country.

"On Monday, my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year."

Mr Obama added: "It will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested, that has stopped people from facing their own illness and that has sped the spread of this disease for far too long."

The process to lift the ban had begun under the administration of George W Bush.

The Ryan White Act is named after a 13-year-old boy who contracted the virus via blood transfusion and helped educate Americans about the disease until his death in 1990 aged 18.

The act helps about 500,000 people, many on low incomes, by providing treatment and support.

HIV was added in 1987 to the list of diseases disqualifying people from entering the US.

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