First, let me introduce myself. My name’s Jen Searight and I’ve been the Food Bank Coordinator at ASA for just over 2 years. Next week is my last week here. It was a tough decision, but I’m leaving my role here to travel around the world. I’ve been researching my trip for quite a while and recently turned my attention to CDC recommendations for vaccinations. Travel inoculations are nothing new, but as I perused the CDC pages for country-by-country information, I was struck by the travel restrictions that exist for people living with HIV and AIDS.
It’s 2017. When it comes to safety and travel, there are a long list of concerns that a traveler has to consider. Indeed, foreign policy and national security are not just governmental concerns; decisions made have ramifications in individuals’ lives. HIV-related travel restrictions do not often make headlines, but these deserve our attention. According to a United Nations report from 2009, these strictures lack “…connection to some rational purpose in terms of an effective global or national response to the HIV epidemic, nor have they been clearly justified in terms of their being necessary or effective in protecting public health or the public purse.” If the UNAIDS is willing to take a stand against these, the UN’s member states should be willing to revisit their policies.
The United Nations currently recognizes 193 entities. These sovereign nations are at liberty to develop their own policy regarding entry and exit, visas, refugees, etc. These countries are also at liberty to enforce travel restrictions for people living with HIV. Fortunately, most member states do not. Our own United States of America only rescinded our HIV-related travel restrictions in 2010. Before January 4, 2010, non-U.S. citizens who were HIV-positive could not be admitted to the United States unless granted a waiver by the Department of Homeland Security. President George W. Bush’s changes to the Immigration and Nationality Act were a quiet leap forward in equality.
Internationally, there is no doubt that work needs to be done. According to AIDSmap.com‘s Travel Restrictions page, “a number of countries restrict entry for people with HIV. This means that foreigners with HIV may be refused entry, denied permission to work or settle, or even be deported.” For my trip, I’ll need to carry proof of my yellow fever inoculation. And if I was going to Taiwan for more than 3 months, according to Plus magazine, I’d be required to take an HIV test and would face deportation for a positive result.
UNAIDS tracks travel restrictions, but changing political climates mean that planning a trip will require intensive research on a country-by-country basis. Most countries do not advertise their HIV-related travel restrictions openly. Even cursory research does not yield conclusive results in many cases. Still, this is not all bad news. Check out this UNAIDS’ infographic. Prepared in 2015, it’s slightly out-of-date–more and more countries are doing away with their restrictions. While progress is slow, if current trends continue, HIV-related travel restrictions are on their way out. And if you ask this traveler, it’s about time.