Armenia Lifts HIV Travel Ban
The government of Armenia recently made the decision to lift its travel restrictions for people living with HIV, aligning its policy with international public health standards, a move much welcomed by Unzipped, who called it excellent news and the blog of NGO Public Information and Need of Knowledge (PINK) in Armenia,which included information about when and how HIV was excluded from a list of seven “infectious diseases” that threatens public health.
A statement was also released by the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDs, UNAIDS:
“I welcome Armenia’s decision to lift its HIV-related travel restrictions,” said UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé. “I urge other countries to follow Armenia’s example and take the necessary steps to remove punitive laws and practices as a matter of priority,” he added.
According to UNAIDS, Armenia is one of seven countries that has experienced a more than 25 percent increase in HIV between 2001 and 2009. The Armenian National AIDS Center reports that from 1988 to June 2011, 1072 HIV cases have been registered in the country, with 148 new cases registered in 2010. The main modes of HIV transmission are through heterosexual practices and injected drug use.
The taboo nature of HIV/AIDS, coupled with limited sexual education in the country can possibly suggest that more cases exist, but remain unregistered.
“We Armenians don’t talk about HIV, human rights violations and discrimination, we don’t see what is going on,” said Mamikon Hovsepyan, president of PINK in an interview with ianyan in Deceber 2010. “We think if we keep silent, time will go on and everything will be ok. But in fact, we need to speak, inform and be informed because silence is not a solution.”
Despite Armenia’s lift of the ban, almost 50 countries continue to impose HIV-related travel restrictions, according to UNAIDS:
With the removal of Armenia’s travel restrictions, UNAIDS counts 48 countries, territories, and areas that continue to impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on HIV status. Five countries deny visas even for short-term stays and 22 countries deport individuals once their HIV-positive status is discovered.
The HIV travel ban was lifted in the U.S. by President Obama in 2009 after 22 years.