U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has welcomed China's decision to remove travel restrictions based on HIV status.

"I commend President Hu Jintao for China's decision to remove travel restrictions based on HIV status," said Ban. Punitive policies and practices only hamper the global AIDS response. I urge all other countries with such restrictions to remove them as a matter of priority and urgency," he said.

The U.N. Aids agency (UNAIDS) also commended the decision by the Chinese government.

"Every individual should have equal access to freedom of movement - regardless of HIV status," said Michel Sidibe, UNAIDS Executive Director. "This is yet another example of China's leadership in the AIDS response."

Fifty one countries and territories currently impose some form of travel restriction on the entry, stay and residence of people based on their HIV status. Five countries deny visas to people living with HIV for even short-term stays and 23 countries deport individuals once their HIV-positive status is discovered.

The announcement came ahead of the Shanghai Expo 2010, an international fair that is expected to attract millions of visitors over the next six months.

In 2009, the United States and Republic of Korea decided to eliminate travel restrictions based on HIV status.

The U.N. has repeatedly stated that discriminatory actions like travel restrictions does not protect public health.

The countries that impose some form of travel restrictions include Australia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Sudan, U.A.E. and Yemen.

Several other countries, including Namibia and Ukraine, have recently pledged to take steps to remove such restrictions, according to the U.N.

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