Reversing a senseless ban

REVERSING A SENSELESS BAN…. The Reagan administration and then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) imposed a travel and immigration ban more than two decades ago on those with HIV.

Today, President Obama announced the end of the ban.

President Obama called the 22-year ban on travel and immigration by HIV-positive individuals a decision “rooted in fear rather than fact” and announced the end of the rule-making process overturning the ban.

The president signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009 at the White House Friday and also spoke of the new rules, which have been under development [for] more than a year. “We are finishing the job,” the president said. […]

The lifting of the ban removes one of the last vestiges of early U.S. AIDS policy. “We’re thrilled that the ban has been lifted based on science, reason, and human rights. Our hope is that this decision reflects a commitment to adopting more evidence-based policies when confronting the AIDS epidemic and developing a comprehensive national AIDS strategy,” said Kevin Robert Frost, CEO of amFAR, an AIDS research foundation.

The president added, “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.”

The announcement came as Obama signed the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act of 2009.

It’s only fair that I note, as the president did this morning, that progress first began on the travel/immigration measure a year ago. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and then-Sen. Gordon H. Smith (R-Ore.) pushed for the change in the 2008 PEPFAR legislation, and the Bush administration approved the bill. It’s a win for common sense, human decency, and bipartisanship.

The last major effort to drop the ban came in 1991, but it fell apart in the face of intense right-wing criticism. Fortunately, the country has come a long way since then.