Canadians with HIV/AIDS were allowed to visit the United States starting Monday, after the U.S. lifted its 22-year ban against foreigners infected with the virus.
Since 1987, the ban has restricted people with HIV from moving to or visiting the U.S.
When the ban was adopted, little was known about how HIV was transmitted, and some U.S. politicians believed they could stop the virus from spreading in their country by keeping foreigners with AIDS out of the country.
On Monday, a Surrey, B.C., man became one of the first Canadians with HIV to cross the border since the White House repealed the ban.
AIDS activist Martin Rooney said he was harassed and turned away the last time he tried to enter two years ago to buy a turkey in Blaine, Wash.
"I was hauled in because I had to admit that I was HIV positive, and I was basically interrogated, accused of entering the U.S. illegally, fingerprinted, photographed and run through the FBI most wanted list and sent home," Rooney recalled.
This time, Rooney was let into Washington state after a quick car search. Choking back tears, he said he was looking forward to seeing friends in the U.S.
AIDS activists believe thousands of people like Rooney were turned away at the border over the past decade.
Washington, D.C., will be host to the 2012 International AIDS Conference — an event made possible with the removal of the ban, the administration of President Barack Obama said Monday.
An estimated 65,000 Canadians were HIV positive in 2008, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada.