Australia’s peak AIDS organisation hopes the announcement by the Chinese Government of an immediate lifting of bans on people with HIV travelling to the country will inspire other nations with similar policies to follow suit.

Australian Federation of AIDS Organisations (AFAO) executive director Don Baxter welcomed China’s somewhat belated change of policy, saying it highlighted the discrimination still endured by people living with HIV around the world.

“We hope that this move by China sets a lead for many other countries — particularly those in the global south — to follow suit,” Baxter said.

“It was only in January this year that President Obama removed similar travel restrictions in the US, however, we believe the Chinese Government’s policy shift may well have a much greater flow-on effect in the region.

“We believe this decision has come about in a large part from the commendable efforts of the Australian Government, writers groups and HIV advocacy organisations following the Chinese Government’s refusal of a visa to Australian author Robert Dessaix in March because of his HIV status.

“According to UNAIDS, more than 50 countries worldwide still enforce travel restrictions solely based on people’s HIV status, with more than 20 forcibly deporting people if they are discovered to be HIV positive.

“For many positive people, there is no choice but to lie about their HIV status if they wish to freely travel for work or pleasure.

“We hope this announcement will ensure Robert Dessaix is the last Australian put in this terrible situation and that it will lead to an end to ongoing discrimination endured around the world by people living with HIV.”

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