HIV-related travel restrictions are not necessary and undermine public health
HIV is a communicable disease that raises public health concerns. However, it is a preventable and manageable chronic health condition that should be treated no differently from other conditions.
Although international health regulations require United Nations Member States to put in place an appropriate and efficient legal framework to prevent and respond to threats of international spread of diseases, “in ways that are commensurate with and restricted to public health risks,” restrictions on travel based on HIV status are not justifiable. HIV cannot be transmitted by casual contact and the mere presence of people living with HIV in a country does not constitute a threat to public health.
Evidence shows that people are more likely to seek HIV testing services when they are in a climate of trust and comfort. Mandatory HIV testing and fear of discriminatory treatment drive people away from HIV services. Bans on entry, stay and residence based on HIV status create a false sense of safety—they don’t protect public health and undermine the AIDS response.
Mandatory HIV testing and travel restrictions based on HIV status reinforce stigmatizing stereotypes against people living with HIV, leading to HIV being viewed as a foreign import that concerns only foreigners (1). In addition, fear of discrimination and deportation may prevent people living with HIV and people at higher risk of HIV from seeking and accessing the HIV prevention, treatment and care services they need, even when they are available.
The World Health Organization and UNAIDS recommend that HIV testing should always be conducted in accordance with the five Cs: informed consent, confidentiality, counselling, communication of correct results and connection with HIV prevention, treatment and care and support services (2).
International Labour Organization Recommendation No. 200 on HIV and the world of work recommends that, “HIV testing or other forms of screening for HIV should not be required of workers, including migrant workers, job seekers and job applicants” and that, “Real or perceived HIV status should not be a ground of discrimination preventing the recruitment or continued employment, or the pursuit of equal opportunities …”
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