For 20 years the Chinese government banned foreigners with HIV and AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and leprosy from entering the country. China is now lifting its entry ban according to state-run news agency Xinhua. “Restricting foreigners with these diseases from entering the country has played an extremely limited role in our country’s disease prevention and control work, and instead has repeatedly become an impediment to our hosting a variety of international events,” said a Chinese official.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton gave China kudos for the move in a statement released Thursday on the Department of State website:
I commend China’s decision to lift its ban on HIV-positive individuals entering the country. The Obama Administration has taken similar action here at home, repealing the long-standing policy that prevented people living with HIV from entering the United States. China’s step, like our earlier action, is supported by current medical knowledge of HIV transmission and risk. And it will help reduce the stigma and discrimination around HIV/AIDS that fuel the global pandemic and too often prevent people from accessing much-needed services. I am encouraged by the growing international consensus against discriminatory HIV-based travel restrictions, and I congratulate China on being a part of this progress.
The U.S. lifted its ban in January — according to amfAR, an AIDS research organization, at that time the U.S. was one of seven countries with laws barring people with HIV from entry.
Last month, over 90 Australian authors signed a letter decrying China’s refusal to grant a visa to Robert Dessaix, who is HIV-positive and one of Australia’s most celebrated writers. While the timing of the decision seems to coincide with tomorrow’s opening of the World Expo in Shanghai, which China poured billions of dollars into and expects to draw 70 million visitors, the country had previously lifted the ban temporarily for big events, including the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
In October 2009, there were an estimated 740,000 people living with HIV in China, according to the Chinese health ministry. China’s first case of AIDS was reported in 1985, and since then, the disease has claimed 49,845 lives in the country.