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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 worldwide.

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.

For information contact:
John Brooks, Director
(773) 380-2958 or
ELCA News Blog:

Source: ELCA News Service

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