WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Barack Obama announced Friday that he will lift a 22-year ban on entry into the United States for people infected with HIV/AIDS.
The administration intends to publish a new federal rule next week eliminating the ban by the start of 2010, he noted.
"We talk about reducing the stigma of this disease, yet we've treated a visitor living with it as a threat," he said at the White House. "If we want to be the global leader in combatting HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it."
Obama said that lifting the ban is a "step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment. It's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives."
The United States, he noted, is currently one of only a dozen countries that still bars the entry of people with HIV.
Obama made the announcement shortly before signing legislation extending federally funded HIV/AIDS treatment for hundreds of thousands of underinsured low-income Americans.
The Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act authorizes a 5 percent annual increase in federal support over the next four years. Funding under the law is slated to rise from over $2.5 billion in fiscal year 2010 to nearly $3 billion in fiscal year 2013.
Among other things, the law helps ensure continued funding for the Minority AIDS Initiative, designed to address "the disproportionate impact of the disease on racial and ethnic minorities," according to a White House statement.
The measure easily passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives last week. Similar legislation first passed almost 20 years ago, and was subsequently reauthorized in 1996, 2000 and 2006.
An estimated 1 million people in the United States currently live with the HIV/AIDS virus, according the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Almost one-quarter of those individuals are not aware that they are infected, the CDC says.
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