A gay Republican lobby group has applauded the US President after he eased travel restrictions for HIV travellers entering America.

The Log Cabin Republicans welcomed an announcement from the White House on World AIDS Day that President George W Bush would issue an executive order allowing HIV-positive people to enter the US on short-term tourist or business visas without having to seek special permission.

“This decision is a good first step toward ending the stigma of HIV,” said Log Cabin Executive Vice President Patrick Sammon. “We urge the president to take further steps by finally removing HIV as a barrier to American citizenship and residence.

” As we’ve learned more about this disease and the way it is spread, there is no justifiable reason to keep this law in place.”

Currently, HIV-positive travellers entering the US are required to declare themselves infected with the virus. Those who ignore this requirement for fear of the stigma associated with the disease must then be fearful if they carry antiviral drugs that they will be found out and customs officials will turn them away.

The ban originates from 1987, when fear about the spread of the disease led US officials to require anyone with HIV to declare their status and apply for a special waiver visa. This led to many people not declaring their status upon arrival. It also meant that no international AIDS conferences could be held on US soil.

President Bush will use an executive order to allow HIV+ people a “categorical waiver,” similar to the 60 day automatic visas that UK business and tourist visitors receive. It is not yet clear if US immigration will still require people to declare their HIV status.

“As the president continues efforts to eradicate this disease in Africa and throughout the world, the only way the stigma of AIDS can ever be diminished is if our laws at home reflect the reality of the disease,” said Mr Sammon.