10 Jul 2010

Namibia lifts travel restrictions against people living with HIV

International civil society and networks of people living with HIV welcome the formal announcement from the Namibian Minister of Home affairs, the Honourable Rosalia Nghidinwa, to remove from its Immigration Control Regulation all HIV related immigration barriers for people living with HIV. With immediate effect, people living with HIV will not be barred from entering, staying or seeking residence in Namibia based solely on HIV positive status.

“Even though [there] is no example of the enforcement of the Regulation in Namibia, its existence created the wrong impression of Namibia as a democracy and its national and international commitments to a human rights-based approach to responding to HIV and AIDS,” said Minister Nghindinwa: “[The regulation] fostered stigma and discrimination towards people living with HIV and AIDS. […] It was oversight that this Regulation was placed on the visa application forms.”

“GNP+ congratulates the Namibian Prime Minister Nahas Angula and his Government for the leadership shown in following through on the undertaking that was initiated a year ago,” said Dr. Kevin Moody, International Coordinator and CEO of the Global Network of People living with HIV (GNP+): “We encourage other countries to show similar leadership. They should update their laws and take decisive action to abolish HIV related entry, stay and residence restrictions.”

“With Africa as epicentre of the epidemic, countries must be vigilant to avoid laws and regulations reinforcing stigma and discrimination,” said Michaela Clayton, Director of the AIDS & Rights Alliance Southern Africa (ARASA): “Travel and mobility is a human right of all people, and removing such barriers is a positive step towards strengthening the human rights of people living with HIV.”

2010 has seen several successes in advocacy against HIV related entry, stay and residency restrictions. The United States abolished its entry ban in January 2010, followed by China which lifted its restrictions in May 2010.  This momentum must be maintained.

Database on HIV related Entry and Residence Restrictions – 2010 update

DAH, EATG, International AIDS Society (IAS) and GNP+, have collaborated on the 2010 update of the Quick Reference Guide to travel and residency regulations – a database which aims to provide information to people living with HIV on the different HIV related barriers imposed by countries that limit or deny freedom of movement.  The 2010 update shows that currently 66 of the 200 countries included have discriminatory restrictions in place. 31 countries still deport people found to be HIV positive or ask people to leave the country based on their HIV positive status.

“Namibia’s actions are a great positive signal just prior to the International AIDS Conference,” said David Haerry of EATG and Peter Wiessner of DAH who have led the process of mapping the countries with these restrictions:  “Namibia was one of the few countries in the African region with HIV specific restrictions for visa applicants. We hope that some of the other African countries with discriminatory entry and residence restrictions will soon follow this example.”

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