National HIV Testing Day: UN urges countries to remove HIV-related travel restrictions

ON the occasion of the National HIV Testing Day, The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have urged 48 member countries to remove all forms of HIV-related travel restrictions.

They noted that 48 countries still have restrictions that include mandatory HIV testing and disclosure as part of the requirements for immigrants visa.

Nigeria is, however, part of the 145 countries that do not have HIV-related restriction on entry, study or residence permits.

HIV,  human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that damages the immune system which helps the body fight off infections. It causes AIDS,  a serious condition where the immune system is too weak to fight off other diseases and infections.

Of the 48 member states listed, four were Africans- Sudan, Tunisia, Angola, and Egypt.  Egypt and Sudan deport non-nationals on the grounds of their  HIV status, UN said.  They also prohibit short or long term stay of any person tested HIV positive, including Tunisia. While Angola requires HIV testing or disclosure for certain types of entry, study, or residency permits.

Non-African countries that deported non-nationals on the grounds of having HIV infections include Russia, Malaysia, Iraq, Saudi-Arabia, Jordan, Syrian Arab Republic, Oman, Yemen, and Turkmenistan. Those that prohibited immigrants with HIV infections into their countries are Ukraine, Indonesia, Tunisia, Dominican Republic, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kyrgyzstan.

    Other countries like Australia, Cuba, Paraguay, and Angola require an HIV test or diagnosis as a requirement for a study, work or entry visa.

    Infographics credit: Twitter/UNAIDS

    “HIV-related travel restrictions fuel exclusion and intolerance by fostering the dangerous and false idea that people on the move spread disease,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV group.

    Also, Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS executive director, said that travel restrictions on the basis of being HIV positive “violate human rights and not effective in achieving the public health goal of preventing HIV transmission.”

    UNAIDS noted that restrictions of people because of their HIV status stimulate stigma and discrimination. It added that the restrictions do not “decrease the transmission of HIV. “It is truly incomprehensible that HIV-related entry and residency restrictions still exist,”  UNAIDS noted.

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