The ban on HIV-positive people entering the US officially ends today, and it makes me wonder how one of the most powerful nations in the world would not have addressed this absurd regulation before now. Fear mongers run for your lifes and make sure not to touch those public toilet seats you were warned about back in the 1980's.
The 22-year-old law was one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world for people with HIV but was lifted by President Barack Obama in November. He described it as a "decision rooted in fear rather than fact".
According to On Top magazine, the first HIV-positive person to enter the country since the lifting of the ban will be Clemens Ruland, 45, a youth worker from the Netherlands. He and his partner Hugo Bausch, 50, will be welcomed by gay group Immigration Equality when they arrive in New York today.
The lifting of the ban was praised by UK-based HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust. Lisa Power, head of policy at the organisation, said: "It's ridiculous that for over 20 years people living with HIV have been banned from entering the US simply because of a medical condition.
"Removing the ban is long overdue and we congratulate the US government on seeing economic and medical sense. Terrence Higgins Trust and many others have campaigned against the ban since it was introduced. "Blanket entry bans have no justification on public health grounds and only increase stigma. We hope other countries with similar bans in place will now remove them too."
The ban had also barred long-term foreign residents from obtaining resident status, purely on the basis of having HIV. Only a handful of other countries, such as Yemen and Qatar, have similar policies on barring entry to HIV-positive individuals.
HIV experts criticised the ban in the past for encouraging people not to get tested out of fear. Obama said that lifting the ban is 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".