This must count as a moment for national shame:

China will relax a long-standing rule that bars foreigners with HIV from entering the country, a health official said. The law will be revised but a date has not yet been set, said Mao Qun'an, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, according to a transcript of a news conference posted on the ministry's Web site late Monday.

Under a 1994 law, foreigners applying for a residency permit in China must take an HIV test. Visitors to the country are asked to declare whether they have the virus and can be refused entry or deported if they do. The law also affects those with other sexually transmitted diseases or tuberculosis.

But Mao said China's attitudes have changed. "At present, we are considering, and we are changing the present regulation that stops foreigners with HIV and AIDS from entering the country, and this job is under way," he said. He did not give any details on how the law would be revised.

But the U.S. still has such a ban - making America a leading proponent of HIV-discrimination and stigmatization. There was no reason but hysteria to equate HIV with malaria and TB when Jesse Helms added HIV to blanket bans on HIV-positive tourists, visitors and immigrants decades ago. All this time later, treating this disease as worthy of panicked pariah-status is absurdly anachronistic - and deeply stigmatizing to people living with an illness that cannot be spread like malaria or TB. The Bush administration's own commission on HIV wants the immigration and travel ban lifted. So why is the US now behind China in sane, civilized standards on this matter?

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