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Where HIVers Are Unwelcome

Where HIVers Are Unwelcome

Today, 66 countries, territories, and areas deny entry, stay, or residence to HIV-positive individuals, according to the International AIDS Society. Among them, 26 deport migrants testing HIV-positive, seven bar stays beyond certain time frames, and six deny entry for the short-term. Many HIV-related travel restrictions were enacted during the early epidemic and reflected a period of fear, ignorance, and prejudice about the disease, according to IAS officials.

"These laws are not consistent with current scientific knowledge, best practices in public health, and humanitarian principles," said Craig McClure, executive director of the organization. "They sustain a culture of exclusion, rights violations, and marginalization that impedes an effective response to the epidemic."

Such laws pressure people into hiding their HIV status, the World Health Organization says. People may choose not to carry HIV medications on international trips to countries with unfriendly policies, raising the risk of drug-resistant HIV. "Furthermore, because drug resistance allows HIV to replicate in the body more freely, people with higher viral loads are also more infectious," the WHO said.

In one example from India, Harjeet, a villager from the Punjab region, dreamed of going to work in a rich Persian Gulf state during the mid 1990s. During a mandatory medical exam, the doctor would only tell Harjeet that "something is wrong" with his blood test. The doctor said he would hide the results for the equivalent of $43 "commission."

Nonetheless, in Saudi Arabia, Harjeet underwent a secondary medical exam and was soon after shocked to be placed in an isolated jail cell. The next day a court ordered him deported for testing positive for HIV.

On returning to India, Harjeet discovered that his wife left the family home with their two children. After a period of severe depression and illness, Harjeet eventually returned to health thanks to support from a care center and now works with people who have HIV.

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