China ready to end HIV/AIDS entry ban

created: 2010-04-22

China appears ready to lift a decades-old travel ban on HIV-positive foreigners.

Insiders said the ban may be dropped after the State Council, China's Cabinet, decided on Monday to make changes to laws barring foreign HIV sufferers from entering the country.

Currently, foreigners suffering from mental disorders or infectious diseases like leprosy and HIV/AIDS are denied entry.

Although no timetable was disclosed, the changes are likely to be announced before the official opening of Shanghai Expo on May 1, which is expected to attract 4 million visitors from abroad, suggested Hao Yang, deputy director of the Ministry of Health's disease prevention and control bureau.

Rules on the long-term stay, residence and immigration of HIV/AIDS sufferers will be clearly defined in the near future, he noted.

China, with an HIV-positive population of 740,000, is still among over 60 countries that deny entry to sufferers merely because of their HIV status.

"The ban imposed in the 1980s due to a lack of knowledge is obsolete and discriminatory," said He Xiong, deputy director of the Beijing center for disease prevention and control.

"As HIV/AIDS cases have been seen in all provinces in China, a travel ban on foreigners will not help local public health," he noted.

It also affected rising international exchanges and a global campaign against HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and stigma, he said.

In fact, "years before the upcoming change to the law, the Chinese government had realized the existing problems and taken measures to address that," said Professor Jing Jun with Tsinghua University.

In 1995, China ended the practice of mandatory HIV screening for foreigners who wanted to enter the country.

Instead, they were required to claim their health conditions, including HIV/AIDS status.

Those making honest claims about their status could find their entry denied, as in the case of Australian writer Robert Dessaix, who was denied entry in March because he claimed HIV-positive status.

However, there have been exceptions.

For major international events as the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the government temporary granted waivers allowing sufferers to enter the country for the event.

"Such practices date back to September 1995 when China hosted the 4th World Conference on Women," said Hao.


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