BEIJING, April 27 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon Tuesday praised China's decision to lift the country's travel ban for people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
"I commend President Hu Jintao for China's decision to remove travel restrictions based on HIV status," Ban said in a release. "Punitive policies and practices only hamper the global AIDS response."
Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS, said the move demonstrated China's leadership in the AIDS response. The U.N. unit opposes laws restricting travel based solely on HIV status, saying they are discriminatory, and do not protect public health or prevent the transmission of the human immunodeficiency virus.
"Every individual should have equal access to freedom of movement, regardless of HIV status," Sidibe said.
The agency said 51 countries, territories and areas impose some form of travel restriction on the entry, stay and residence of HIV-infected people.
South Korea and the United States recently lifted "discriminatory" travel limits that prevented people with HIV from entering both nations, Ban said. Several other countries, including Namibia and Ukraine, recently pledged to take steps to remove restrictions.