The Coca-Cola Company and more than 20 other leading companies and their CEOs are calling on 46 countries to lift travel restrictions for people living with HIV.

Muhtar Kent is among the CEOs who signed a pledge to oppose HIV-related restrictions on entry, stay and residence, calling such laws and policies discriminatory and bad for business. The pledge is an initiative of UNAIDS in partnership with GBCHealth, a coalition of companies committed to addressing global health challenges. Kent has co-chaired GBCHealth since 2009.

The pledge was announced this week during the International AIDS Conference in Washington, D.C. The United States lifted travel restrictions against people living with HIV in 2010.

Most HIV-related travel restrictions were imposed by governments in the early days of the epidemic, when ignorance and fear surrounded the transmission of HIV and treatment did not exist. According to UNAIDS, some countries deny travel for short-term stays, such as business trips or conferences. Others deny longer-term stays or residence, such as work-related moves, migration, study abroad programs and diplomatic and consular postings.

"There is no evidence that these restrictions protect public health," said Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS. "They are discriminatory and violate international human rights standards. People living with HIV should have equal access to opportunity and freedom of movement in today's globalized world."

Michael Schreiber, Managing Director of GBCHealth, added, "These outdated laws and policies make no sense in today's globalized world, where work-related travel is routine for corporations. Companies need to send their employees overseas, regardless of their HIV status."

Many countries have lifted their travel restrictions, including most recently, Namibia, Ukraine, Armenia, Fiji and the Republic of Moldova.

CEOs from these companies have joined the pledge: Access Bank Plc, Aetna, Anglo American plc, BD, BET Networks, Bristol-Myers Squibb Company, The Coca-Cola Company, Gap Inc., Getty Images, Gilead Sciences, Inc., H&M Hennes & Mauritz AB, HEINEKEN NV, Hub One International Company, Johnson & Johnson, Kenneth Cole Productions, Levi Strauss & Co., Merck & Co., Mylan, National Basketball Association (NBA), Nordstrom, Inc, OraSure Technologies, Inc., Vestergaard Frandsen and Virgin Unite, as well as the former Chairman of MTVN International.

The campaign hopes to secure 100 CEO signatures by World AIDS Day 2012 on Dec. 1.

Learn more about the CEO pledge.