IT’S ABOUT TIME…. In 1987, the Reagan administration and then-Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) imposed a travel and immigration ban more than two decades ago on those who are HIV-positive. The misguided policy has led to separated families, avoided medical tests, and highly-skilled workers taking their expertise elsewhere.

In October, President Obama announced that he’s ending the ban, calling it a decision “rooted in fear rather than fact.” The ban officially ended today.

Until this morning, the United States was only one of about 12 countries to even impose such a travel ban, established in the 1980s when fears about HIV/AIDS were most intense.

“We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat,” Obama said in May, according to CNN. “If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it.”

The move arrives as the United States prepares to host the World Aids Conference in 2012. The previous travel ban would have severely complicated the White House’s ability to participate in the annual forum.

The policy change coincides with word that President Obama has named Amanda Simpson to be a senior technical advisor to the Commerce Department. Simpson is one of the first-ever transgender presidential appointees to the federal government, and is a member of the National Center for Transgender Equality’s board of directors.

I realize that it often seems as if progressive policy shifts are slow and infrequent. But as John Cole noted this morning, “Change is happening. We’re just arguing with each other about the pace.”

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Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.