Actor with HIV allowed to enter Philippines

AP News
Posted: Mar 10, 2011 5:39 AM
Actor with HIV allowed to enter Philippines

The Philippine immigration chief said Thursday he has rescinded an order barring a movie and theater actor who is HIV positive from entering the country, calling it a mistake and violation of the government's international commitments.

Filipino-Australian actor Marcelino Cavestany said he was unaware he had been banned and shocked when immigration officers at the Manila airport stopped him upon arrival from Australia on Sunday because his name appeared on an immigration blacklist.

Cavestany told GMA television that he has been living with HIV for the past 12 years and has been an activist since 2006, using theater to promote AIDS awareness among Filipinos.

The Philippine Commission on Human Rights said Thursday it was "dismayed and deeply alarmed" by the blacklisting. It said it was "unacceptable and illegal," citing a 1998 Philippine law that guarantees HIV positive individuals freedom to travel.

"Ironically, Mr. Cavestany had intended to travel to the Philippines to help educate Filipinos on the effects of AIDS," the commission said.

The actor played a role in the 2005 movie "The Great Raid," about a World War II mission to liberate Allied prisoners from a Japanese war camp in the Philippines.

Immigration Commissioner Ronaldo Ledesma said Cavestany's inclusion on the list was a violation of the Philippines' international commitment to allow freedom of travel of persons infected with HIV/AIDS.

Ledesma said Cavestany was free to enter and leave the country, and his name was expunged from the list on Tuesday.

He said that his predecessor, Marcelino Libanan, included Cavestany on the list last year because an official of the government's Culture and Arts Commission claimed the actor had intended to spread HIV. That official was unavailable for comment Thursday.

The 2010 ban on Cavestany failed to consider that the Philippines was party to the 1994 Paris Declaration on AIDS that guarantees people with the disease freedom of travel, Ledesma said.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines is among the countries with low but rapidly increasing HIV prevalence rates. Out of a population of 94 million, 8,700 are estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS. Infections have jumped by 25 percent in the last decade, according to the U.N.

(This version CORRECTS Corrects misspelling of "commitments" in paragraph 1. This story is part of AP's general news and entertainment services.)