amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

China to Ease Travel Restrictions for People Infected with HIV

November 26, 2007—Earlier this month, China announced plans to ease travel restrictions for people infected with HIV. The legislative changes would lift restrictions put in place by a 1994 law that permits the barring of HIV-positive travelers wishing to enter China and requires foreigners applying for a residency permit to take an HIV test. Current law also allows for the deportation of foreigners if they are HIV-positive. Many have argued that these restrictions have continued to fuel HIV-related stigma within the country.

Although there is no set date for these changes to take effect, officials underlined their commitment to the legislation. Vice Minister of Health Huang Jiefu said, “Modifying laws and regulations is quite a complicated process and it takes some time. This process has not been completed yet…But I would like to ask the international community and the media to rest assured that China would honor its commitment.”

According to Michel Kazatchkine, executive director of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria, “the new law, which will hopefully be passed in the coming months, will be in line with the global conventions, which recognize that travel restrictions for HIV-positive people do not have any public health value.”

The recent announcement by Chinese officials has inspired renewed discussion of a similar travel ban in the U.S., which prohibits HIV-positive individuals from entering the country.

Under the Reagan administration, HIV was added to a list of diseases that disqualify foreigners from entering the country. President Bill Clinton signed the exclusion into law in 1993 as part of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This law makes the U.S. one of only 13 countries that maintain a legal ban on HIV-positive immigrants. Other countries include Armenia, Brunei, China, Iraq, the Russian Federation, and Saudi Arabia.

On World AIDS Day 2006, President George W. Bush expressed his intent to relax the current U.S. travel ban through the creation of a categorical waiver that would enable HIV-positive people to enter the country for short visits through a streamlined process. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) released a proposed regulation for the waiver for HIV-positive travelers wishing to visit the U.S. for 30 days or less. This would allow a determination on an application to be made at the consular officer level in home countries rather than by the DHS.

Unlike the proposed legislative changes in China, the U.S. move would not amend or remove the HIV inadmissibility clause in the Immigration and Nationality Act and would not affect HIV-positive persons wishing to emigrate to the U.S. or those who wish to enter the country for long-term employment or study.

For more information on China and HIV-related immigration policies in the U.S., click here.