CEOs call on countries to remove HIV travel bans

A coalition of CEOs from 40 companies are requesting that countries eliminate laws to restrict the travel of HIV-positive individuals because the policies are discriminatory and detrimental to the worldwide economy.

There are 45 countries with policies or laws that detain, deport or deny entry to individuals infected with HIV. Five countries in the Middle East refuse people living with HIV from entering the country. An additional five require people living in the country for more than five days to show they do not have the disease, CNN reports.

Business leaders from the Gap, Johnson & Johnson, the NBA, Viacom, Aetna and Coca-Cola signed onto the pledge.

"Our employees are our competitive advantage, no matter what their HIV/AIDS status is," Chip Bergh, the CEO of Levi Strauss, said, according to CNN. "We're standing by our greatest asset, our talent, and we're making a move to end HIV/AIDS discrimination globally."

According to the New York-based UNAIDS, many of the policies and laws came into practice in the 1980s resulting from beliefs that HIV could be caught through the air, that there were no reliable tests to detect it and that it could not be treated.

"There was a fear about HIV and stigma and discrimination," Bertil Lindblad, the director of UNAIDS, said, according to CNN. "HIV in some countries is thought of as a social evil. In some places it is part of bigger human rights issues, where homosexuality is illegal."

The U.S. enacted restrictions barring HIV-infected foreign nationals in 1987. President Obama lifted the restrictions in January 2010, CNN reports.