President Barack Obama is lifting the ban on travel to the United States for people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The U.S. is one of only about a dozen countries that still bars travelers with HIV from entering the country.
President Obama says it is time for the 22-year travel ban to end.
"If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," said President Obama. "And that is why on Monday, my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban, effective just after the new year."
The president says the ban was based on fear rather than fact.
"We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we have treated a visitor living with it as a threat," said Mr. Obama. "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.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in 1987, added HIV/AIDS to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the United States. The department tried to reverse the decision in 1991. But in 1993 Congress made HIV infection the only medical condition listed under immigration law as grounds for being denied entry.
Mr. Obama says that in overturning the ban, he is finishing a process begun by former President George W. Bush. He says doing so will help advance the cause of HIV / AIDS prevention and treatment.
"It is a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it is a step that will keep families together, and it is a step that will save lives," he said.
Mr. Obama made the announcement as he signed an extension of a government AIDS initiative that began in 1990. The Ryan White AIDS program provides medical care, medication and support services to about half a million Americans.
The bill is named for a boy who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion at age 13.