Ugandans salute US for lifting travel ban on HIV-positive persons

Kampala- Uganda (PANA) -- Violet Nalubwama was denied visa to the US for more tha n three times due to her HIV/AIDS status, an act that left her stigmatized, but u pon hearing the news that the Barrack Obama-led administration is poised to lift the decades-old ban on HIV-positive visitors from abroad, she expressed gratitude to God.
"God is Good.
Finally am headed to met my sons and in-laws.
To me, this is the g reatest news this year," said Nalubwama, 42, a mother of two whose late father w a s an American.
The father of her two sons, now living in the US, aged 16 and 14, died in 1997, two years after returning to his native home town of Georgia.
They were due to l e galize their marriage in the US.
"I was denied a US visa four times in 1996, 1997, 1998 and 1999, using four diff erent Ugandan passports because they will never consider any applicant with a pa s sport bearing their disapproval stamp.
"Each time I applied, I had to go through a detailed process including a medical check at a US- appointed doctor.
It was here that I learnt I was found HIV-posi t ive, a condition that disqualified me according to the laws.
"We are many who suffered this inhumane treatment.
Many of us now living with HI V/AIDS have been denied many things career advancement and some marriages like m i ne were broken.
This decision, many rights activists say, was rooted in fear rather than fact, w as instituted by the George Bush administration in 1987, but the law was not imp l emented by the US Department of Health and Human Services, which regulates US im m igration authorities in some instances, like visiting government authorities and other prominent personalities were never subjected to treatment like Nalubwama.
Visiting UN Secretary General's Special Envoy on AIDS in Africa, Elizabeth N.
Ma taka, welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying, "it was long overdue.
I commend t h e Obama adminstration.
"Lifting the ban puts the US back in a leadership role in the fight against the illness and would help to lift the stigma associated with AIDS," Mataka told a n e ws conference here in Kampala on Wednesday.
The Ugandan government has welcomed the decision, saying "It's important to have a law that protects the rights of the people with regard to the HIV/AIDS epidem i c and avoid stigma, an element that does more than good.
"Nations like US which have imposed travel bans and subjected aliens to tests st ill have the disease spreading wildly in their countries," said Fred Opolot, a g o vernment spokesman.
"There have been revolutionary discoveries of drugs that can contain the escalat ion of the virus in a human body and we see many sufferers living longer and are productive in all aspects of human resources.
"So travel bans imposed on such people living HIV/AIDS was a violation of their rights to travel; subjecting them to stigma," Opolot, the Executive Director of t he Uganda Media Centre, noted.
On the streets of Ugandan capital, Kampala, many people interviewed welcomed the lifting of the ban, saying the ban was one negative thing that the US had been d oing against humanity.
"It was okay for Americans living with HIV/AIDS to travel to other countries, an d not vice versa - even with good intentions like attending intellectual meeting s , studies, and career- enhancing programmes," Ally Mutasa, a Journalist, wondered.
"The ban was a big negative to the US, a country leading in the funding of HIV/A IDS programmes on the global scene.

03 december 2009 13:23:00

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