President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. will overturn a 22-year-old travel and immigration ban against people with HIV early next year. The order will be finalized on Monday, Obama said, completing a process begun during the Bush administration. The U.S. has been among a dozen countries that bar entry to travelers with visas or anyone seeking a green card based on their HIV status. "If we want to be the global leader in combatting HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it," Obama said at the White House before signing a bill to extend the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program. Begun in 1990, the program provides medical care, medication and support services to about half a million people, most of them low-income.
Recently the Administration announced nearly $80 million in grants that will end current State AIDS Drug Assistant Program waitlists so that all people living with HIV/AIDS have access to live-saving health care and medications. Additionally, the Food and Drug Administration recently approved the first rapid HIV home test kit and Truvada, the first drug shown to reduce the risk of HIV prevention, for use as a preventive measure for people at high risk of acquiring HIV through sexual activity.
President Obama has also made critical investments to expand access to HIV treatment and care. Since the President took office, domestic HIV/AIDS funding has increased by approximately $2.5 billion, and in his Fiscal Year 2013 Budget the President proposed $22 billion dollars for domestic HIV/AIDS programs.
The President has taken significant action steps eliminating barriers to equality, fighting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender, as recently evidenced by his support for marriage equality, and the Affordable Care Act, which prohibits insurance companies from charging women more than men. The Department of Justice has taken unprecedented steps to enforce civil rights laws that protect the rights of persons living with HIV/AIDS, and has launched a website dedicated to fighting discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS (ada.gov/AIDS). The President also recently appointed a Federal work group to take action on the intersections of HIV/AIDS, violence against women and girls, and gender-related health disparities. Similarly, PEPFAR is working to support hundreds of thousands of communities and families as they shelter, educate, and love the millions of children who have been orphaned or made vulnerable due to AIDS.
"Few could have imagined that we'd be talking about the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. But that's what we're talking about ... make no mistake, we are going to win this fight. But the fight is not over -- not by a long shot. Not for the 1.2 million Americans who are living with HIV right now. Not for the Americans who are infected every day. This fight is not over for them, it's not over for their families ... and it certainly isn't over for your President."
Testing remains a special priority – and thanks to quick and accurate tests, finding out your HIV status has never been easier. The Affordable Care Act now requires many health insurance plans to provide recommended preventive health services with no out of pocket costs, giving millions of Americans better access to HIV testing. Another CDC program, the Expanding Testing Initiative, has conducted 2.8 million tests in its first three years. Together, these and other efforts will help prevent new infections and ensure that people living with HIV lead healthy lives – moving us towards our goal of an AIDS-free generation.
In July 2010, my Administration released the National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which emphasizes the goals of reducing infections, improving health outcomes, and reducing HIV-related health disparities. Two years into its implementation, the Strategy continues to focus Federal, State, and local efforts on improving the delivery of HIV/AIDS services, including expanding outreach, testing, linkage to care, and treatment.
In the first year of his presidency, Barack Obama will develop and begin to implement a comprehensive national HIV/AIDS strategy that includes all federal agencies. The strategy will be designed to reduce HIV infections, increase access to care and reduce HIV-related health disparities. Obama will support common sense approaches including age-appropriate sex education that includes information about contraception, combating infection within our prison population through education and contraception, and distributing contraceptives through our public health system. Obama also supports lifting the federal ban on needle exchange, which could dramatically reduce rates of infection among drug users. Obama has also been willing to confront the stigma -- too often tied to homophobia -- that continues to surround HIV/AIDS. He will continue to speak out on this issue as president.
In the United States, the percentage of women diagnosed with AIDS has quadrupled over the last 20 years. Today, women account for more than one quarter of all new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Barack Obama introduced the Microbicide Development Act, which will accelerate the development of products that empower women in the battle against AIDS. Microbicides are a class of products currently under development that women apply topically to prevent transmission of HIV and other infections.
In 2010 President Obama unveiled the first comprehensive National HIV/AIDS Strategy, which is grounded in a vision that explicitly addresses stigma and discrimination: “The United States will become a place where new HIV infections are rare and when they do occur, every person regardless of age, gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identify or socio-economic circumstance, will have unfettered access to high quality, life-extending care, free from stigma and discrimination.