POZlife

POZLife: Life from the Infected and Effected point of veiw.

China To Ease Ban On HIV Foreigners

Posted by pozlife on November 14, 2007

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by The Associated Press

Posted: November 13, 2007 – 9:00 am ET

(Beijing) China will relax a long-standing rule that bars foreigners with HIV from entering the country, a health official said Tuesday.

The law will be revised but a date has not yet been set, said Mao Qun’an, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, according to a transcript of a news conference posted on the ministry’s Web site late Monday.

Under a 1994 law, foreigners applying for a residency permit in China must take an HIV test. Visitors to the country are asked to declare whether they have the virus – and can be refused entry or deported if they do. The law also affects those with other sexually transmitted diseases or tuberculosis.

But Mao said China’s attitudes have changed.

"At present, we are considering, and we are changing the present regulation that stops foreigners with HIV and AIDS from entering the country, and this job is under way," he said. He did not give any details on how the law would be revised.

The country has made more open efforts to tackle the disease in recent years, but still clamps down on some AIDS-awareness activists who are critical of the government’s policies on the spread of the virus.

In the past, the law has stopped those with HIV or AIDS from attending conferences on the disease in China.

"The change is correct and significant. It will benefit international cooperation on HIV/AIDS and will eliminate most Chinese people’s concept that AIDS comes from foreigners," said Wan Yanhai, a Chinese activist for AIDS awareness and effective public health policies. Chinese police have occasionally detained him for his work.

Wan said the Geneva-based Global Fund was behind the government’s decision. The group finances programs that combat AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria and recently granted China $5.8 million to fight HIV and AIDS.

The fund is holding a board meeting this week in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming, and may have pressured the government to revise the law, Wan said.

China holds a seat on the board of the Global Fund, which has approved a total of $424 million to fight disease in the country.

The World Health Organization welcomed the news Tuesday, saying it was a major step in fighting discrimination and will lead to a greater understanding of how the virus is transmitted.

"Decisions like this show that the Chinese government is continuing to make important progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS," said a statement issued by Joanna Brent, a WHO spokeswoman in China.

An estimated 650,000 people in China live with HIV, according to the most recent government statistics, which date from 2005.

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