China Readies for World Expo 2010 with Lift on Travel Restrictions
As the World Expo 2010 Shanghai is set to launch on May 1st, 2010, China has lifted some of its travel restrictions on individuals with illnesses in preparation for the event, specifically individuals with HIV and leprosy.
Shanghai is expecting to host approximately 100 million visitors due to The World Expo which runs until October 2010.
Dr. Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS/STD Control and Prevention said the ban was put in place "at a time when HIV/AIDS was relatively new, and our understanding about HIV/AIDS has since accumulated". China's State Council stated that the ban put in place based on "limited knowledge" of HIV at the time and also was an inconvenience to the country when hosting international events.
The ban originally included travelers with HIV and leprosy along with people with "serious" mental illnesses, infectious tuberculosis and "infectious diseases likely to cause significant harm to public health" according to The State Council.
The ban has been in place for approximately two decades according to The Associated Press. With improved reporting of HIV/AIDS statistics in China, AIDS became the top killer among infections diseases in 2008. According to Chinese government statistics, the number of Chinese confirmed to be living with HIV-AIDS was 319,877. However, Health Minister Chen Zhu believes that number should be closer to 740,000.
According to Breaking Travel News, China was one of approximately 50 countries worldwide that still had restrictions in place against carriers of the HIV virus. The change follows on the heals of moves made by the United States and South Korea earlier this year. Other countries that still have an HIV ban on travelers include Oman, Qatar, Sudan and Yemen according to a list on Livestrong.com.
The change in restrictions has been welcomed by the U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as well as prominent AIDS activist Edwin Cameron, a judge on South Africa's constitutional Court. Cameron, who also has HIV, stated that the ban "nearly led to the cancellation of my last trip to China because of a misunderstanding between government departments". He believes the original restrictions were "illogical" and that "I am relieved this will never happen again to anyone living with HIV".
Ban Ki-moon stated that "punitive policies and practices only hamper the global AIDS response," and urges other countries to follow in China's footsteps.
The change in restrictions was embraced by the World Health Organization (WHO), stating that it is a "significant step in the right direction".