A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test. And I'm proud to announce today we're about to take another step towards ending that stigma. Twenty-two years ago, in a decision
rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat. 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 from HIV from entering our own country.If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.
And that's why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It's a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives.
This is a real achievement. It will endure as a small but critical part of this administration's legacy on HIV and civil rights and human dignity. It really is change – and it took Obama to finish it off. Many of us will remember it for the rest of our lives.
(Photo: US President Barack Obama signs the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 in the Diplomatic Reception room at the White House in Washington, DC, on October 30, 2009. By Jewel Samad/Getty.)