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Lifting of HIV Travel Ban in US Welcomed

The decision of US President Barrack Obama earlier this year to end a travel ban on HIV and AIDS victims is the beginning of a new era for them, a Cambodian health official said Monday.

The lifting of the 22-year-old ban removes barriers and reduces discrimination for victims, How Bun Leng, deputy director general of the National AIDS Authority, told “Hello VOA.”

“We appreciate it and also welcome it,” he said. “This is a removal of a barrier that gives rights that are not just rights for HIV and AIDS victims as travelers, but also the right to access meetings, exchange experiences and so on.”

HIV and AIDS were conditions added to a US travel ban in 1987, and though efforts had been made to remove victims of the disease from the ban, Congress made it a part of immigration law. Those who suffered the disease could apply to seek exception, but it meant extra work.

Work began in 2009 under Congress and the administration of George W. Bush to end the ban. It was lifted in November under Obama.

“We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we have treated a visitor living with it as a threat,” Obama said. “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.”

In Cambodia one out of every 100 persons aged 15 to 49 is afflicted with HIV or AIDS, How Bun Leng said Monday. Cambodia has fought to reduce the number by joining with other health organizations.

Meanwhile, a campaign is underway to achieve 100 percent condom use by sex workers, said Heng Kheng, a representative of Population Services International, who also appeared on “Hello VOA.”

“We have our advocacy groups in target areas like restaurants and clubs to talk to people about the use of condoms for their safety,” he said. “We use games to attract them to answer and evaluate how they can face transmission if they have sex and how to use condoms.”

World AIDS Day was celebrated globally on Tuesday.