US President Barack Obama announced late this morning his administration has lifted the ban on people with HIV/AIDS from entering the United States. The president spoke at a White House ceremony to reauthorize the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Treatment Extension Act, which allocates billions in federal funds to HIV/AIDS treatment programs. Obama described the ban, which came into effect 22 years ago, as "a decision rooted in fear rather than fact." "We lead the world when it comes to helping stem the AIDS pandemic-yet we are one of only a dozen countries that still bar people from HIV from entering our own country," he said. "If we want to be the global leader in combating HIV/AIDS, we need to act like it." The changes will take effect in January, as the Department of Health and Homeland Services is given 60 days to enact the new rules, reports the Advocate. Congress passed a bill last year that authorized the White House to lift the ban. Former US president George W Bush endorsed the proposal as part of a broader plan to combat the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. And Obama said his administration is "finishing the job." "It is a step that will encourage people to get tested and get treatment, it's a step that will keep families together, and it's a step that will save lives," the president said. Ban opponents quickly applauded the announcement. "At long last, people living with HIV will no longer be pointlessly barred from this country," said Rachel B Tiven, executive director of Immigration Equality. Senator John Kerry [D-Mass] co-sponsored the bill that authorized the administration to lift the travel ban. He echoed the administration's sentiments in a prepared statement. "Today a discriminatory travel and immigration ban has gone the way of the dinosaur and we're glad it's finally extinct," said Kerry. "We've now removed one more hurdle in our fight against AIDS, and it's long overdue for people living with HIV who battle against stigma and bigotry day in and day out."