China Lifts 20-Year-Old Ban on Entry of Foreigners with HIV/AIDS

China says it has lifted a 20-year-old ban on the entry of foreigners with HIV/AIDS days before the start of the Shanghai World Expo, an event expected to attract millions of visitors.

Chinese state media published a statement Tuesday by China's State Council saying the government realized the entry ban had a very limited effect in preventing and controlling diseases. The State Council says the ban also inconvenienced China when hosting international events.

Chinese media say the government also removed entry bans on foreigners infected with other sexually-transmitted diseases and leprosy.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended Chinese President Hu Jintao for the decision and urged more countries to take similar steps as a matter of urgency.

The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) says 51 countries and territories currently impose restrictions on the entry, stay or residence of people living with HIV. The United States lifted its entry ban on HIV/AIDS carriers in January.

Mr. Ban said punitive policies and practices only hamper the global AIDS response. UNAIDS said travel restrictions based on HIV status are discriminatory and do not prevent HIV transmission or protect public health.

China opens the Shanghai Expo on May 1. It previously lifted entry bans on foreigners with HIV/AIDS on a temporary basis for several events, including the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995 and the Beijing Asian Games in 1990.