- The Namibian parliament has passed new legislation lifting restrictions for people living with HIV/AIDS and other contagious diseases, including an entry ban.
Originally, Namibian lawmakers had seen the restrictions as a way of keeping HIV transmissions down in the country, which has a lower HIV prevalence rate than most other Southern African countries.
But the restrictions proved of little efficiency when it comes to prevent the most typical ways of entry of contagious diseases, for example transport workers and prostitution. The restrictions were increasingly seen as discriminatory to Namibians living with AIDS and complicated reach-out campaigns.
This insight, campaigning from local AIDS activists and foreign professional calls for Namibia to bring its legislation in line with international public health standards finally this month convinced lawmakers in Windhoek.
The decision today was heartily welcomed by the UN agency leading the fight against AIDS, UNAIDS. "Restrictions that limit movement based on HIV-positive status only are discriminatory and violate human rights," the UN agency said in a statement.
There was no evidence that such restrictions prevent HIV transmission or protect public health, UNAIDS added, also stating that HIV-related travel restrictions had no economic justification, as people living with HIV could lead long and productive working lives.
"I am heartened by this announcement in Namibia," said Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director. "HIV-related travel restrictions serve no purpose and hamper the global AIDS response," he added.
There are now 51 countries, territories, and areas that continue to impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their HIV status. Five countries deny visas even for short-term stays, while 22 countries deport individuals once their HIV-positive status is discovered, according to UNAIDS.
The US and China removed long-standing HIV-related travel restrictions earlier this year. Several other countries, including Ukraine, have pledged to take steps to remove such restrictions, the agency added.
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