British business entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson today threw his support behind a United Nations-backed drive to rid the world finally of the remaining discriminatory laws that keep people from visiting, or living and working in countries solely because they are HIV positive.
“I applaud UNAIDS' tireless efforts to encourage countries to remove travel restrictions on people living with HIV. Everyone should have the chance to travel freely, and I welcome the opportunity to work together on such an important issue,” he said, referring to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS.
“With the support of tireless advocates such as Sir Richard Branson, we will bring about a new era of equal mobility for people living with HIV,” UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé said.
Last month Fiji became the latest country to lift its restrictions on entry, stay or residence based on HIV status. “Fiji's leadership sends a strong message, and my hope is that other governments will follow their example,” Mr. Branson said.
With the removal of Fiji’s HIV travel restrictions, UNAIDS counts 47 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 Programme said in a news release. At least 128 countries have no such restrictions.
Sir Richard is the founder of the Virgin Group, which has expanded into many diverse sectors from air and ground travel to telecommunications, health, space travel and renewable energy through more than 200 companies worldwide.
In 2005, he started Virgin Unite, the Group’s non-profit entrepreneurial foundation, which works with partners to create new approaches to social and environmental issues. Virgin Unite has also helped to incubate a number of global leadership initiatives, including the Elders, the Carbon War Room, and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship. He has participated in various UN forums.