Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) from 40 companies are asking countries to eliminate laws that restrict the travel of individuals with HIV, because such laws are discriminatory and detrimental to the global economy, in which companies have to be free to send employees around the world. Business leaders who agreed with the change in policy include the CEOs of Coca-Cola, Aetna, Viacom, Pfizer, the National Basketball Association, Johnson & Johnson, and Gap.
According to UNAIDS, 45 countries have laws or policies that deport, detain, or deny entry to persons with HIV. Five countries in the Middle East refuse entry to people with HIV, and another five—including Singapore, Egypt, and the Turks and Caicos—require anyone who plans to remain in the country longer than five days to provide evidence that they are not infected with the HIV virus. The United States regulations barring HIV-infected foreign nationals from receiving a visa to enter the country were lifted in January 2010. The restrictions were introduced in 1987, when HIV was added to the list of diseases of public health significance. Foreign nationals requesting a visa to enter the United States were tested for HIV during medical screening by US immigration.
Many of these laws and polices were made in the 1980s when HIV was first publicly known and resulted from a combination of transmission myths, fears that it could not be treated, and the lack of a reliable test to diagnose it. All these factors have now changed. Bertil Lindblad, of UNAIDS in New York, stated that many of the reactions arose from fear about HIV, stigma, and discrimination. However, in some countries, the disease is considered a social evil, and in places, it is part of a larger human rights issue, the illegality of homosexuality.