Video: White House ends HIV travel ban

  1. Closed captioning of: White House ends HIV travel ban

    >> particularly in aafrica. we face a serious hiv / aids epidemic of our own right here in washington , d.c., and right here in united states of america . today we are taking two important steps forward in the fight that we face here at home. it has been nearly three decades since the virus first became known. but for years we refused to recognize it for what it was. it was coined a guy gay disease. there was a sense, among some, that people inflicted by aids deserved their faith and it was acceptable for our nation to look the other way. a number of events and advances over the years have broadened our understanding of this cruel illness. one of them came in 1984 when a 13-year-old boy from central indiana contracted hiv /aids from a transfusion. doctors assured people that ryan white posed no risk to his classmates or his community but ignorance was still widespread. people didn't yet understand or believe that the virus couldn't be spread by casual contact. parents protested ryan 's appear appearance in class and some pulled their kids out of school and things got so bad that the white family had to ultimately move to another town. it would have been easy for ryan and his family to stay close and fight the illness in private, but what ryan showed was the same courage and strength that so many hiv positive activists have shown around the years and shown around the world today. because he did, we didn't just become more informed about hiv /aids, we began to take action to fight it. in 1990 , the year ryan passed away, two great friends and unlikely political allies, ted kennedy and orrin hatch came together and introduced the comprehensive aids resources c.a.r. ee. act which was later named after ryan . in a few minutes i will sign the fourth reauthorization of the ryan white care act . now, in the past, policy differences have made it devisive and controversial. that didn't happen this year and for that the members of congress that are here today deserve extraordinary credit for passing this bill in the bipartisan manner that it deserves. tom harkin and mike in the senate, we're grateful to you for your extraordinary work. speaker pelosi who is always leading the charge on so many issues and joe barton , barbara lee and donna christenson in the house, thank you so much for your extraordinary work. don't worry, i'm getting to everett. and nancy's always looking out for her members, but we have a special section for henry. and chairman henry waxman who began holding hearings on aids in 1982 , before there was even a name for aids. was leading here in washington to make sure that this got the informed attention that it deserved and who led the house in passing the original ryan white legislation in 1990 . i also want to acknowledge the hiv community for crafting a consensus document that did so much to help move this process forward, so many advocates are with us here today. earnest hopkins and frank goldmine jr., president and ceo of the national association of people with aids and julie skolfield. and i'm especially honored that ryan white 's mother, jeannie is here today. for 25 years, jeannie had an immeasurable impact in helping ramp up america's response to this epidemic while we lost ryan at too young a age they have extended the lives and saved the lives of so many others and we are so appreciative to you. thank you. over the past 19 years this legislation evolved from an emergency response into a comprehensive national program for the care and support of americans living with hiv /aids and helps communities most affected by this epidemic and often least served by our health care system including the lbgt community and rural communities and the homeless. it's often the only option for the uninsured and underinsured and it provides life-saving medical services to more than half a million americans every year in every corner of the country. it's helped us to open a critical front on the ongoing battle against hiv /aids. but let me be clear, a battle that is far from over and it's a battle that all of us need to do our part to join. aids may no longer be the leading killer of americans ages 25 to 44, but still 1.1 million people living with aids in the united states and more than 56,000 new infections occur every single year. some communities still experience unexceptionally high rates of infection. gay men make up 2% to 3% of the population of more than new cases. african- americans make up half of all new cases and half of all new cases occur in the south and a staggering 7% of washington , d.c.'s residents between the ages of 40 and 49 live with hiv /aids and the epidemic here isn't as severe as it is in several u.s. cities. tackling this epidemic will take far more approaches than we've seen in the past but from state and local governments and local community organizations and from places of worship . it will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested and stopped people from facing their own illness and the spread of this disease for if a too long. a couple years ago michelle and i were in africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in kenya by taking a public hiv / aids test . i am proud to announce today that we're about to take another step towards ending that stigma. 22 years ago in a decision rootd rooted in fear rather than fact the united states entered a travel ban for people entering the country living with hiv /aids. we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease yet we treated a visitor living with it as a threat. we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from hiv from entering our own country. if we want to be the global leader in combatting hiv /aids, we need to act like it. that's why on monday we will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the new year. congress and president bush began this process last year and they ought to be commended for it. we are finishing the job. 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. and we are -- we are continuing the work of crafting a coordinated national aids strategy to suppress this epidemic. i am pleased to report the office of aids policy led by jeffrey crawley has eight in a series of 14 community discussions in cities across the country. they brought together faith-based organizations and businesses, schools and research institutions and people living with hiv and concerned citizens . gathering ideas on how to target a national response that effectively reduced hiv infections and improves access to treatment and eliminates health disparities . we are encouraged by the energy, enthusiasm and great ideas we have collected so far. we can't give ryan white back to his mom, but we can do that the legislation i'm about to sign for 20 years is honor the courage that he and his family shows. what we can do is take more action and educate more people. what we can do is keep fighting each and every day until we elim eliminate this disease from the face of the earth. so, with that, let me sign this bill.

    >> signing the extension of the ryan white bill. the very

updated 10/30/2009 2:40:23 PM ET 2009-10-30T18:40:23

President Barack Obama said Friday that a U.S. travel ban against people infected with the HIV virus will be overturned early next year.

The order will be completed on Monday, Obama said, finishing a process begun during the administration of former President George W. Bush.

The United States is one of about a dozen countries that bar entry to travelers based on their HIV status. The ban has been in place for more than 20 years. Obama said it will be lifted just after the new year, after a waiting period of about 60 days.

"If we want to be a global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama said at the White House before signing a bill to extend the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. Begun in 1990, the program provides medical care, medication and support services to about half a million Americans with HIV or AIDS, mostly low-income people.

Officials from the Centers for Disease Control received more than 20,000 responses, about 18,500 of which were a form letter in support of the change. The others were individual comments, including some criticism of lifting the ban. Readers who want to review the remarks can go to http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dq/laws_regs/fed_reg/remove-hiv/index_hiv.htm and click on public comments.

Critics of proposal have said they were leery of the change, which could allow an average of 4,275 HIV-infected people into the country annually, with a lifetime medical cost of about $94 million for this admitted during the first year, according to early CDC estimates.

But health officials said the move brings the U.S. in line with current medical thinking.

“Good riddance to this discriminatory rule that had no basis in public health or sound science,” said Dr. Arlene Bardeguez, outgoing president of the HIV Medicine Association. “This long-overdue move brings the U.S. in line with current scientific and international standards of public health and will lessen the painful stigma and discrimination suffered by HIV-positive people.”

Image: President Barack Obama, Jeanne White-Ginger
Gerald Herbert  /  AP
President Barack Obama greets Jeanne White-Ginder, mother of Ryan White, after signing the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 on Oct. 30, 2009.

The bill is named for an teenager who contracted AIDS through a blood transfusion at age 13. Ryan White went on to fight AIDS-related discrimination against him and others like him in the late 1980s and to help educate Americans about the disease. He died in April 1990 at 18.

His mother, Jeanne White-Ginder, attended the signing ceremony, as did several members of Congress and HIV/AIDS activists.

In 1987, at a time of widespread fear and ignorance about HIV, the Department of Health and Human Services added the disease to the list of communicable diseases that disqualified a person from entering the United States.

Tried to reverse ban in 1991
The department tried in 1991 to reverse its decision but was opposed by Congress, which in 1993 went the other way and made HIV infection the only medical condition explicitly listed under immigration law as grounds for inadmissibility to the country.

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The law effectively has kept out thousands of students, tourists and refugees and complicated the adoption of children with HIV. No major international AIDS conference has been held in the United States since 1993 because HIV-positive activists or researchers could not enter the country.

Obama said lifting the ban "is a step that will save lives" by encouraging people to get tested and to get treatment.

Rachel B. Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality, said the ban pointlessly has barred people from the United States, and separated families with no benefit to the public health.

"Now, those families can be reunited, and the United States can put its mouth where its money is: ending the stigma that perpetuates HIV transmission, supporting science and welcoming those who seek to build a life in this country," said Tiven, whose organization works for fairness in immigration for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and HIV-positive people.

Under a program begun by Bush, the United States spends billions of dollars annually to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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