The global debate over HIV-related travel restrictions: framing and policy change

Simon Berkeley Rushton

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In 2010 the United States repealed Section 212(a) (1) of the Immigration and Nationality Act which stated that a non-citizen determined to have a ‘communicable disease of public health significance’ is not admissible into the country without a waiver. This included HIV+ non-citizens. In the same year, several other countries including China and South Korea removed similar restrictions. This paper examines the global debate over HIV-related travel restrictions which has been ongoing since the mid-1980s and attempts to account for these recent policy changes. Entry restrictions have almost always been justified as necessary in two ways: to protect public health from the supposed threat posed by the entry of people living with HIV, and to limit the costs HIV+ migrants impose on domestic health systems. Opponents of these restrictions have consistently sought to challenge the evidence underpinning these claims and also to re-frame the issue in rights terms. However, in this paper I argue that this re-framing was not in itself sufficient to bring about policy change. Some other factors also have to be taken into account, including the changing political context (both domestic and international), and the network building strategies employed by opponents of the restrictions from 2008 onwards.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S159-S175
JournalGlobal Public Health
Issue numberS2
Early online date31 Oct 2012
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2012


  • HIV
  • Travel restrictions
  • United States
  • global health
  • public health
  • framing


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