In 1987, in the midst of the HIV-AIDS panic here in the United States, the government added being HIV-positive to the list of diseases that would bar emigres or visitors from entering this country. For the last 22 years that has been the law.
But for most of that 22 years, it has been known that HIV-positive persons really did not pose a risk to the population in general. Long ago, most civilized nations realized this and did away with any bans (if they had imposed one), but the United States and perhaps a dozen other countries have kept the ban in effect. Thankfully, that is about to change.
Yesterday, President Obama signed a bipartisan extension of the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Act, which provides health care treatment and support for about 500,000 HIV/AIDS patients. At the same time, the president announced he would be lifting the HIV-positive ban for emigres and visitors because it was "rooted in fear rather than fact".
He went on to say, "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. On Monday, my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year."
We used to lead in world in the establishment and teaching of human rights issues, but this time we are a very tardy follower. Sadly, that is happening far too often.