ELCA Presiding Bishop Welcomes Travel Policy Change for People with HIV
November 5, 2009 - CHICAGO (ELCA) - The presiding bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran
Church in America (ELCA) joined others in welcoming a decision by U.S.
President Barack Obama to remove entry restrictions into the United
States for people who are HIV-positive.
"Ending discriminatory policies and confronting stigmatizing
attitudes toward people living with HIV and AIDS are essential for their
full inclusion in society and religious communities," said Hanson, who is
also president of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF), Geneva.
The LWF consists of 140 Lutheran churches in 79 countries
representing 68.9 million Christians worldwide.
Since 1987, HIV-positive travelers and immigrants have been banned
from entering or traveling through the United States without a special
waiver. Obama announced the elimination of the restrictions last week.
The change is to take effect in January.
"I welcome President Obama's announcement that the United States
will now join the vast majority of nations that do not restrict travel by
people who have tested HIV positive," said Hanson.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, in a statement on the lifting of
the visa restrictions, urged "all other countries with such restrictions
to take steps to remove them at the earliest."
The Rev. J.P. Mokgethi-Heath, a director of the International
Network of Religious Leaders Living with or personally affected by HIV
and AIDS, said, "We in the faith communities and people living with HIV
have for many years been campaigning for the removal of these misinformed
and discriminatory travel restrictions. When applying for my U.S. visa
now I will not feel contaminating and contaminated. I will feel I am
applying for a visa on the merit of my travel, the same as everyone else."
In August 2008 Hanson spoke on the subject at a news conference at
the International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. At that time Hanson
declared that the religious community "will not give up" until travel
restrictions that limit the movement of people living with HIV are lifted
He said then that the religious community would work through
organizations such as the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance (EAA), Geneva, and
the LWF to advocate with governments to lift the restrictions. The EAA is
an international network of churches and church-related organizations
committed to working together on common concerns such as issues related
to HIV and AIDS. The ELCA is a member of the EAA.
*Information for this story was provided by Ecumenical News International.
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Source: ELCA News Service