Although HIV medicine has improved in recent years, the disease's stigma persists. Regrettably, this tragic truth exists all across the world. Some countries continue to limit the entrance of HIV-positive people. Even in nations where the restriction has been abolished, some HIV-positive individuals encounter prejudice
Hence, the question: where is the discrimination coming from? What causes this stigma and how do we stop it?
People with HIV can live regular lives with the help of medication as technology advances. Other countries, on the other hand, consider HIV medications to constitute a red flag during border checks.
HIV-positive persons are recommended to bring their medication with them when traveling. Unfortunately, this is not a blanket statement, since experts warn the public about the hazardous side effects of drugs such as the HIV prevention drug Truvada. Should an individual experience these severe side effects, and find it necessary to be compensated for the damages of the side effects, more information on this subject is provided by several institutions, such as Schmidt & Clark, LLP, that can give legal advice on this matter.
HIV is no longer the death sentence it used to be, but many individuals are still afraid of contracting the virus. The stigma surrounding HIV is so strong that some countries have passed laws prohibiting people who have been diagnosed with the virus from entering their borders. This can be a major problem for refugees fleeing war-torn regions or nations affected by epidemics.
In 1987 the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) instituted a ban on HIV-positive people traveling to the US. This was a result of widespread fear and ignorance about the virus. It was based on unfounded beliefs that people who had AIDS were untreatable, untouchable, and unlovable. The original ban was made by executive order under President Ronald Reagan.
The ban also played into other stereotypes—such as that all gay men were promiscuous, or all Black men were drug addicts. When HIV/AIDS was first identified in the early 1980s, there were no effective medications for treating it—and many people thought that an HIV-positive diagnosis was a death sentence. So when Congress passed this law in 1987, its goal was to prevent people from spreading HIV by making sure they weren't allowed on planes or trains unless they were traveling with someone who had tested negative for the virus.
The CDC's grounds for instituting the ban were based on fear, not science. The ban's history is long and complicated, with roots in early 20th-century scientific racism. But the truth is that it was never just about science: it was about dehumanizing people who were different from the majority because of their race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. It was also about stigmatizing them and making it harder for them to find jobs—and even harder for them to access healthcare.
So what's different today? Why do we think this ban isn't necessary anymore? As of January 2010, President Obama lifted the ban on entry into the US for those carrying HIV and AIDS.
The lifting of the HIV travel restriction ban reflects positive progress toward accepting the science behind the current treatment of HIV
Today, thanks to research and increased awareness about how HIV affects different populations differently; we know that those with HIV are no more likely than anyone else to engage in risky behavior like unprotected sex or drug use. We know people with HIV can live full lives, whether they're gay or straight, male or female l—and many more people are living a happy life with HIV today than ever before.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are over 37.7 million people with HIV around the world, including 25.5 million in sub-Saharan Africa alone. This means that there are potentially millions of individuals who could benefit from traveling abroad if they knew they were eligible for travel under the current status quo.
This new knowledge has helped us change our understanding of what it means to be "HIV positive." It's no longer about living a life free of risk—it's about living a life free of stigma and discrimination. We have taken major steps toward ending the stigma that surrounds this disease. For instance, the U.S. Congress passed legislation that made it illegal for medical providers to discriminate against patients based on their status as an individual living with HIV or AIDS.
The lifting of the HIV travel restriction ban is a victory for human rights and access to information. However, it is not without controversy. The removal of the travel restriction ban has been met with criticism from many individuals in the public and private sectors, including those who are HIV-positive themselves. Many have felt that this action was taken without proper consultation with community members, who may have had questions about what the removal would mean for their daily lives if they were unable to travel abroad.
Additionally, some have expressed concern about how such a decision may affect public health efforts in developing countries where there is still much work to be done on both curbing new infections and improving care for those already infected with HIV/AIDS. The removal of the ban on HIV-positive travelers is only one step toward ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to travel. While this decision may provide some relief for individuals who were previously unable to travel due to their status, it does not address many other issues that plague those living with HIV/AIDS in countries around the world.
For example, the decision does not address the widespread discrimination against HIV-positive people. In many countries, individuals with HIV/AIDS face legal challenges and economic hardship as a result of their status. They may be unable to get married or secure employment because of their status, which can lead to poverty and homelessness. In addition, laws that criminalize the transmission of HIV have been used to target individuals living with HIV/AIDS who engage in sexual contact without disclosing their status—even when there is no intention of transmitting the virus.
On the other hand, advocates and activists disagree with HIV bans and discrimination against HIV-positive people. The most common argument is that the travel restriction is unconstitutional and discriminatory. People with HIV are entitled to equal treatment under the law, and they do not deserve to be treated differently from others simply because they have an infectious disease.
Another argument is that it is wrong to single out people based on their HIV status since many other infectious diseases could be spread by travelers carrying them. For example, people with hepatitis C can transmit it easily through bodily fluids like blood or saliva. This can lead to infection for those who do not know whether they have infected themselves, or for those who do get tested but refuse to go through treatment as required by law (which means they could infect others).
Many also claim that treating people differently based on their HIV status creates stigma within society at large, which can lead to discrimination against those who carry the virus or those who help them find treatment options if they are infected.
One key takeaway from all of this is that there seems to be a bipartisan consensus that the travel restrictions against "high-risk" groups are discriminatory. At the very least, they're ineffective at preventing the spread of HIV and serve to make it more difficult for researchers and scientists to examine the virus and its epidemiology. We should all take this victory by the WHO as an opportunity for global citizenship and progress.
The lifting of the HIV travel ban is an encouraging step in the right direction. This needs to be taken as a sign that advocacy, education, and awareness have led to much-needed understanding, worldwide. So long as governments support these endeavors, the future looks positive for those living with HIV—beyond our borders and within them.
-Article written by Kienna Spence.
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