Travel restrictions

UNAIDS welcomes New Zealand’s decision to lift travel restrictions for people living with HIV

25 October 2021

GENEVA, 25 October 2021—UNAIDS welcomes the announcement by New Zealand that it has removed all travel restrictions for people living with HIV. The recent decision by Immigration New Zealand to remove HIV from the list of medical conditions deemed likely to impose significant costs or demands on New Zealand’s health services means that the blanket ban for people living with HIV to get a resident visa has officially been removed. 

“I commend New Zealand for taking this important step and hope that it will encourage other countries to remove all travel restrictions and other policies that discriminate against people living with HIV,” said UNAIDS Executive Director, Winnie Byanyima.

Legislation, policies and practices that prohibit the movement of people living with HIV are discriminatory and frequently limit their opportunity to travel, work and study abroad. UNAIDS advocates for the right to freedom of movement and non-discrimination to end the inequalities faced by people living with HIV. There is no evidence that restrictions on the entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV protect public health.

With the removal of New Zealand’s restrictions, UNAIDS counts 46 countries, territories and areas that continue to impose some form of restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their HIV status.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


Michael Hollingdale
tel. +41 79 500 2119

HIV-related travel restrictions

No end to AIDS without respecting human rights

28 June 2019

“Sex workers are 13 times more at risk of becoming HIV positive than the general population globally. But, in Australia, where sex work is decriminalised, we have the same rate of infection as the general population. This is evidence of the importance of the legal environment” says Jules Kim, head of the Scarlet Alliance, the Australian Sex Workers Association.

The Human Rights Council first examined the question of HIV and human rights 29 years ago, in 1990. Since then, it has been steadfast in its assertion that progress in the response to the AIDS epidemic is indissociable from progress on human rights issues. Today, as it discusses new recommendations on human rights and HIV, its work is more important than ever.

A total of 48 countries and territories still maintain travel restrictions on people living with HIV. One in five people living with HIV report having been refused health care because of their HIV status, and in many parts of the world, people who use drugs and sex workers live in fear of arrest for being in possession of clean syringes or condoms.

Adolescent girls and young women are among those worst affected because of a lack of respect for their rights. In 2017, 79% of new infections among 10-19 year-old young people in eastern and southern Africa were among females. Inequalities and institutional barriers increase vulernabilities and decrease access to services. Young people in 45 countries are unable to access sexual and reproductive health services or HIV testing services without parental permission.

At a meeting held on the sidelines of the 41st session of the Human Rights Council, co-convened by Brazil, Colombia, Mozambique, Portugal and Thailand, UNAIDS Deputy Executive Director, Shannon Hader, called on countries to dismantle barriers that prevent people accessing essential services. “It has been four years since the world committed to ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 and three years since the United Nations General Assembly adopted the High-Level Political Declaration on Ending AIDS, which included a commitment to remove human rights barriers by 2020. We have less than two years to deliver on that promise”.

The event marks the presentation of a report and recommendations on HIV and human rights being presented by Michelle Bachelet to the Human Rights Council on July 1. The report, resulting from consultations with civil society, experts, governments and UN mandate holders in February, includes best practise examples, including on the training of health workers on ending stigma and discrimination, on decriminalizing drug use and same-sex sexual activity, model laws on HIV, the training of judges and lawyers, civil society advocacy, and international funding opportunities specifically for human rights programming.

“We cannot address the human rights dimensions of HIV without civil society, who plays a critical role” stated Rui Macieira, Ambassador of Portugal to the United Nations in Geneva.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development is an important agenda for people, planet, prosperity, peace and partnership. In order not to leave anyone behind. States should increase their efforts to reach the most marginalized,” said Peggy Hicks, director of the Thematic Engagement, Special Procedures and Right to Development Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Member states will examine the recommendations that highlight how reforming criminal laws is critical to advancing progress towards the elimination of HIV, including laws criminalizing gender expression or adult consensual sex, including sex work and same sex relations, as well as drug use. The recommendations include a call for strengthening cooperation at regional, sub-regional and global levels to support and invest in programmes and services that promote the right to health and rights of people living with HIV. This is important in the context of shrinking donor funding for HIV and health programmes, including in newly transitioned middle-income countries.

“I live with HIV, I come from a very small community, a slum area of a Kenyan city. If the recommendations of this report are implemented in a facility that I walk to everyday – a health facility, a police station, then it will work and provide us with the services we need and deserve as a basic human right.” concludes Lucy Wanjiku, a young woman living with HIV.



Travel restrictions


Deported, denied access, discriminated against because of their HIV status

27 June 2019

In 2019, 48 countries and territories impose some form of HIV-related restrictions and mandatory HIV testing that prevent people living with HIV from legally entering, transiting through or studying, working or residing in a country, solely based on their HIV status.

Mehdi Beji (not his real name) couldn’t wait to start his new job in a North Africa Middle East country. He had packed his belongings and said his goodbyes in Tunisia and filed all the paperwork requested by his new employer. Before his contract was approved, he had submitted the results of the blood tests he had been asked to take, but after he started work he was requested to get his blood tested again.

“After a month, I was contacted for an appointment to get my credit card, and when I arrived at the mall, I was arrested by the police,” Mr Beji said.  At the police station he was informed he was HIV-positive and that the country’s laws deny residency to people living with HIV.

"They deported me back to Tunisia without money and I was not able to recover my two months salary,” Mr Beji said. “When I contacted the bank, they informed me that the only way to access my account was through the bank card that they refused to grant me.”


Treated like a criminal

For 12 years Karim Haddad (not his real name) lived and worked in a North Africa Middle East country. As part of his medical check-up for his residency permit, his blood was tested for HIV without his consent. On the day he went to collect the test results, he said, police officers handcuffed him and locked him in a room.

Four days later, the authorities informed him that his deportation was imminent because of his HIV status. “I didn’t know anything about the virus, so I asked what HIV is and got no answer,” Mr Haddad said. He recalled feeling paralysed with fear.

When he asked about his wife and children, he was told that they would all board the same flight and would meet him at the airport. As for his financial rights or his belongings, he said they just kept repeating, “You have no rights.”

“I left the country as if I were a criminal,” Mr Haddad said, still in disbelief.



The above tales are experiences that Amina Zidane (not her real name) knows all too well. She left Algeria at the age of 19 for work. After a few years, her annual medical check-up did not go as usual.

“I could hear the nurses whispering to each other, “This is the one.”” She suspected something was wrong, so she asked her sister, who had accompanied her to the clinic, to get her results. “My sister told me that the police were downstairs saying that they had come “to arrest a woman with AIDS,”” she said.

She recalled being taken to jail and prayed that there had been a mistake or that it was just a bad dream. “They did not open the door, they just sent me food through a small window," Ms Zidane said.

A week later, the authorities deported her. “I was left at the border with my passport and my son,” she said. Her husband escaped because he didn’t want to be deported. “Fourteen years of my life disappeared just like that and I had done nothing wrong.”


Lost son

Sabrina Abdallah (not her real name) lived in a North Africa Middle East country most of her childhood. After passing a computer science degree, she married a fellow Sudanese. They rejoiced when they had a baby boy.

At barely three months old, their son’s cold would not clear up. Despite being in a hospital, his condition didn’t improve. “It's really hard to see one’s child suffering and feeling so helpless,” she said. At first, her doctor thought that her son might have cancer, but he was eventually tested and found to be living with HIV. “While I was in the midst of my anxiety and fear, news spread at the hospital about my son, and they placed him alone in a room, with no one looking after him,” she said.

Ms Abdallah tested for HIV and found out that she was also living with HIV. “They asked me to take my son and go home,” she said. “They wouldn’t let us leave him at the hospital and even assigned a police officer to escort us and make sure we would not leave the baby behind.”

Child in hand, she tried to get some answers. That’s when her husband told her he had known his HIV-positive status all along. She couldn’t understand why he would hide something like that from her. The police took her husband to jail and 10 days later they were all deported to the Sudan. She started treatment but unfortunately it was too late for her son.

She eventually divorced her husband because, she said, she could never forgive him for the death of their son. 


Student uprooted

For two years, Miriam Pepple (not her real name) studied at a university in central Europe. She paid her tuition fees and adapted to student life far from home. When she started having abdominal pains, she went to the student clinic. They advised her to have surgery. She had blood tests done, but thought nothing of it, since she had submitted her clinical tests to get a student permit while in her home country, Nigeria.

She said that the university asked her to take more blood tests and to bring her passport. After being told to visit various offices at the Ministry of Health, she was told to report to a police station. A day later, the authorities handed her an airline ticket to Abuja, Nigeria, along with a letter from the immigration office that claimed that she was an inadmissible immigrant.

What shocked her even more, she said, is the letter she received from her university. “They said that I had terminated my studies on my own accord,” Ms Pepple recalls.

“I lost my self-esteem, dignity and respect,” she said. Her hope is that no one should ever go through such treatment because of the huge social and psychological affect it had on her.


Life crushed

Pradeep Agarwal (not his real name) was a successful businessman, working throughout the Middle East. He worked in three Gulf countries for more than 10 years until his life came crashing down around him.

“In a matter of hours, I lost my job, my dignity and my home,” Mr Agarwal said. “I was informed I was HIV-positive and had to leave the country.” He recounts being escorted by the police to a quarantine room. “After being treated for years with respect and dignity, I found myself with other people from all nationalities, among them doctors and engineers, treated in the same inhuman way,” he said.

“I was not even given a medical report that could enlighten me and I was spoken to in Arabic, which I do not understand,” he said. “I suddenly had become a criminal in their eyes.”

After his return to India, he became depressed and has been unable to find another job. He believes that deporting people who are living with HIV gives governments a false assurance that their societies are safe. “In fact, these travel restrictions and expulsions drive people underground, so it makes the situation worse,” Mr Agarwal said. “I want people to be more aware of these violations,” he added. “I want them to stop, so others do not suffer the same horrible fate I suffered.”

UNAIDS believes that these laws discriminate, impact on human rights and have no public health justification.

“For many of the millions of people living with HIV around the world, travel restrictions are a daily reminder that discrimination continues to be entrenched in harmful policies,” said Luisa Cabal, UNAIDS Director, a.i., of the Community Support, Social Justice and Inclusion Department. “They deny people’s freedom and, even worse, force people to abandon their workplace, school and home.”

UNAIDS and UNDP call on 48* countries and territories to remove all HIV-related travel restrictions

27 June 2019

New data show that in 2019 around 48* countries and territories still have restrictions that include mandatory HIV testing and disclosure as part of requirements for entry, residence, work and/or study permits

GENEVA, 27 June 2019—UNAIDS and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are urging countries to keep the promises made in the 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS to remove all forms of HIV-related travel restrictions. Travel restrictions based on real or perceived HIV status are discriminatory, prevent people from accessing HIV services and propagate stigma and discrimination. Since 2015, four countries have taken steps to lift their HIV-related travel restrictions—Belarus, Lithuania, the Republic of Korea and Uzbekistan.

“Travel restrictions on the basis of HIV status violate human rights and are not effective in achieving the public health goal of preventing HIV transmission,” said Gunilla Carlsson, UNAIDS Executive Director, a.i. “UNAIDS calls on all countries that still have HIV-related travel restrictions to remove them.”

“HIV-related travel restrictions fuel exclusion and intolerance by fostering the dangerous and false idea that people on the move spread disease,” said Mandeep Dhaliwal, Director of UNDP’s HIV, Health and Development Group. “The 2018 Supplement of the Global Commission on HIV and the Law was unequivocal in its findings that these policies are counterproductive to effective AIDS responses.”

Out of the 48 countries and territories that maintain restrictions, at least 30 still impose bans on entry or stay and residence based on HIV status and 19 deport non-nationals on the grounds of their HIV status. Other countries and territories may require an HIV test or diagnosis as a requirement for a study, work or entry visa. The majority of countries that retain travel restrictions are in the Middle East and North Africa, but many countries in Asia and the Pacific and eastern Europe and central Asia also impose restrictions.

“HIV-related travel restrictions violate human rights and stimulate stigma and discrimination. They do not decrease the transmission of HIV and are based on moralistic notions of people living with HIV and key populations. It is truly incomprehensible that HIV-related entry and residency restrictions still exist,” said Rico Gustav, Executive Director of the Global Network of People Living with HIV.

The Human Rights Council, meeting in Geneva, Switzerland, this week for its 41st session, has consistently drawn the attention of the international community to, and raised awareness on, the importance of promoting human rights in the response to HIV, most recently in its 5 July 2018 resolution on human rights in the context of HIV.

“Policies requiring compulsory tests for HIV to impose travel restrictions are not based on scientific evidence, are harmful to the enjoyment of human rights and perpetuate discrimination and stigma,” said Dainius Pūras, Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health. “They are a direct barrier to accessing health care and therefore ineffective in terms of public health. I call on states to abolish discriminatory policies that require mandatory testing and impose travel restrictions based on HIV status.”

The new data compiled by UNAIDS include for the first time an analysis of the kinds of travel restrictions imposed by countries and territories and include cases in which people are forced to take a test to renew a residency permit. The data were validated with Member States through their permanent missions to the United Nations.

UNAIDS and UNDP, as the convenor of the Joint Programme’s work on human rights, stigma and discrimination, are continuing to work with partners, governments and civil society organizations to change all laws that restrict travel based on HIV status as part of the Global Partnership for Action to Eliminate all Forms of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination. This is a partnership of United Nations Member States, United Nations entities, civil society and the private and academic sectors for catalysing efforts in countries to implement and scale up programmes and improve shared responsibility and accountability for ending HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

*The 48 countries and territories that still have some form of HIV related travel restriction are: Angola, Aruba, Australia, Azerbaijan, Bahrain, Belize, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brunei Darussalam, Cayman Islands, Cook Islands, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, New Zealand, Oman, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Qatar, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Singapore, Solomon Islands, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Tonga, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Turks and Caicos, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.


The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) leads and inspires the world to achieve its shared vision of zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths. UNAIDS unites the efforts of 11 UN organizations—UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, UNDP, UNFPA, UNODC, UN Women, ILO, UNESCO, WHO and the World Bank—and works closely with global and national partners towards ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals. Learn more at and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


Anne-Claire Guichard
tel. +41 22 791 2321


tel. +41 22 791 42 37





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Still not welcome

Mandatory HIV testing and bans on entry, stay and residence based on HIV status not only do not protect public health but undermine HIV prevention and treatment efforts. For millions of people living with HIV around the world, these are repeated violations of their right to privacy, equality and non-discrimination and a constant reminder of HIV-related stigma. In 2016, United Nations Member States agreed to eliminate HIV-related travel restrictions. In 2019, around 48 countries and territories still maintain some form of HIV-related travel restriction.