blog_logoThe U.S. HIV/AIDS Travel Ban Shocked the World

The HIV/AIDS Travel Ban forbidding foreigners with HIV from entering the United States became effective in June 1987.  The HIV/AIDS Travel Ban was a consequence of an action by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).  This agency added AIDS to the list of dangerous contagious diseases.  Thereby, immediately, any foreigner with AIDS was “ineligible to receive a visa and therefore are excluded from admission into the United States [1].”  This action shocked aware and concerned peoples worldwide. 

Eventually, the U.S. HIV/AIDS Travel Ban was rescinded in 2010 [1]. 

The U.S. HIV/AIDS Travel Ban was Not the First

Liberia and Saudi Arabia both had travel bans by 1986, a year before the US travel was enacted.

Both Liberia (West Africa) and Saudi Arabia had travel bans restricting U.S. citizens from entering these countries without providing certification of an AIDS-free status [2]. 

Most people by now have forgotten.  During the first year or so of HIV/AIDS epidemic, AIDS occurred almost exclusively in the United States, and among men outside of the United States who had sex with American men.  Scattered through the early medical literature are letters from local doctors, saying, to paraphrase, “Hitherto only seen before in the United States, we are reporting the first case of AIDS in our country . . . . [e.g., 3, 4, 5].”

The opinion of the Europeans and Africans was supported by much of the medical literature before 1985.  Essentially, before the African monkey narrative took hold, the United States was recognized as the epicenter of the AIDS epidemic, a perspective repeatedly mentioned in the medical literature of the time.  Read more on “AIDS is from America (Part I) – The Danish Connection.”




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[1]     DHHS. Medical examination of aliens–removal of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection from definition of communicable disease of public health significance. Final rule. Fed Regist. Nov 02 2009;74(210):56547-56562.  [PMID: 20166276] [Download]

[2]     Nelson LJ. International travel restrictions and the AIDS epidemic. Am J Int Law. Jan 1987;81(1):230-236. [PMID: 11649887]

[3]     Ras GJ, Simson IW, Anderson R, Prozesky OW, Hamersma T. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. A report of 2 South African cases. S Afr Med J. Jul 23 1983;64(4):140-142. [PMID: 6306851]

[4]     du Bois RM, Branthwaite MA, Mikhail JR, Batten JC. Primary Pneumocystis carinii and cytomegalovirus infections. Lancet. Dec 12 1981;2(8259):1339.

[5]     HIV/AIDS — The Facts and The Fiction

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