Archive for October 30th, 2009

by Jamee Greer

This is cross-posted on Left in the West.

In what seems like history on fast-forward in the movement for LGBTI equality, today marked another milestone—equally important to the fight against the HIV virus—and in its support of people living with HIV/AIDS.

Today President Obama announced the signing of the Ryan White Treatment Extension Act of 2009, freeing up government funds to help hundreds of thousands of mostly lower income Americans living with HIV/AIDS get the important lifesaving treatments they so need.

There has been a ban on individuals with HIV from entering America for 22 years, an archaic and discriminatory law that comes from a place of misunderstanding, from attitudes heavily rooted in fear at the epidemic’s beginning—attitudes that still exist today.

This ban ends at the beginning of the new year.

Today’s speech by President Obama’s can be read in its entirety at the White House website, but here is an excerpt:

But it will also take an effort to end the stigma that has stopped people from getting tested; that has stopped people from facing their own illness; and that has sped the spread of this disease for far too long. A couple of years ago Michelle and I were in Africa and we tried to combat the stigma when we were in Kenya by taking a public HIV/AIDS test. And I’m proud to announce today we’re about to take another step towards ending that stigma.

Twenty-two years ago, in a decision rooted in fear rather than fact, the United States instituted a travel ban on entry into the country for people living with HIV/AIDS. Now, we talk about reducing the stigma of this disease — yet we’ve treated a visitor living with it as a threat. We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic — yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country.

If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it. And that’s why, on Monday my administration will publish a final rule that eliminates the travel ban effective just after the New Year. Congress and President Bush began this process last year, and they ought to be commended for it. We are finishing the job. It’s 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.

Despite the sense of optimism you hopefully feel by today’s announcement, the fight is far from over. Real health care reform that is inclusive of everyone, affordable for all and respectful and responsive to the privacy of those who live with HIV/AIDS, while working to lift the stigma surrounding the virus, is critical.

Missoula AIDS Council works to prevent the transmission of HIV, while advocating for and supporting individuals living with HIV/AIDS in Montana. Please consider donating today and visit more information.

Video from the President’s speech:

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