The Chinese government has announced it has overturned the ban on HIV-positive visitors entering the country.

The ban was introduced in 1989, although China has temporarily lifted it for major events in the past, such as the1990 Beijing Asian Games and the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The news was announced in a statement on a government website yesterday and the change also applies to sufferers of leprosy.

China follows the US, which overturned its ban on HIV-positive visitors in January.

The change means that now, entry is barred only to people with infectious tuberculosis, serious mental disorders and “infectious diseases which could possibly greatly harm the public health.”

The World Health Organisation welcomed the move.

Dr Margaret Chan, WHO director-general, said: “This decision should inspire other nations to change laws and policies that continue to discriminate against people living with HIV.

“Many policies that discriminate against people living with HIV were enacted at a time when AIDS was surrounded by widespread fear and hopelessness.

“With HIV prevention and treatment now saving millions of lives, this is no longer the case. Policies that help curb discrimination can help prevent further transmission,” she said.

America’s 22-year-old law was one of the most restrictive immigration policies in the world for people with HIV. When US president Barack Obama lifted the ban, he described the law as a “decision rooted in fear rather than fact”.