Traveling with AIDS / HIV? Some Travel Advice
Here at the International Travel Insurance Group, we stand behind the belief that everyone should enjoy the amazing experience of international travel. That includes people who are traveling with HIV or AIDS. Millions of HIV-positive travelers go overseas every year with minimal issues.
It is especially important to break down barriers and make traveling easier for everyone. Thus, I’d like to take this opportunity to discuss some of the most important considerations that people with immunodeficiency conditions should think about before their next trip abroad.
Talking to Your Doctor
Before going abroad with HIV/AIDS, be sure to clear your plans with your doctor. They will be able to provide you with detailed information about how you should maintain and administer your medication while abroad. Likewise, they will often have advice on health precautions you should take or avoid, such as vaccinations.
Your doctor should be supportive of your desire to travel, but they might also have concerns about particular destinations that you might have in mind. Try to keep an open mind when you hear these recommendations. Your doctor may be able to provide you with valuable information, such as the names of health-care professionals abroad who treat patients with HIV.
- Discuss eating and drinking options with your doctor to reduce the risk of preventable infections
- Take extra precautions against mosquito-borne illnesses
- Being aware of the risk of infection, practicing Mosquito Bite Avoidance and ensuring that any antimalarial drugs prescribed do not interfere with routine medications is important
- HIV positive individuals are advised to be vaccinated against pneumococcal and influenza – check with your doctor or nurse
- HIV positive individuals should have been checked for immunity to measles and vaccinated if necessary – check with your specialist
What to Pack
Take care to pack your medications well before going overseas. Each medication should be left in its original prescription bottle. If you must pack needles or syringes, be sure to tell security staff at the airport before you approach a security checkpoint. When carrying medications in pill form, keep these in your carry-on bag or on your person to reduce the chance of losing them.
Before traveling, it is important to find out whether your medications are legal at your international destination. Some HIV/AIDS medications are considered to be illegal narcotics in some countries. To get this information, contact the U.S. embassy of the country you wish to visit. The Department of State provides a valuable list of foreign embassy websites.
Your medication may not be available abroad, so take enough for the entire length of your trip.
How to Find Good Medical Facilities
Obtaining health care while overseas can be difficult. For those with HIV or AIDS, European countries have the best medical facilities. You can find out basic information about obtaining care in European countries at an AIDSMap page on obtaining health care abroad.
Some countries that may not have advanced health care in all areas may have world-class care facilities in provincial or national capitals. For example, rural health care in Thailand is very limited, but Bangkok has some very sophisticated hospitals.
With these things in mind, always begin your search for treatment in national capitals. Searching online for “expats” living long-term in a particular country can be helpful, as they have had time to acclimate to the local health-care system and seek out high-quality care.
Even in areas with cutting-edge health care, such as Hong Kong, treatment can be costly. One of the most important ways to reduce the cost of treatment is to get travel insurance that will provide for your needs at reasonable prices.
Countries to Avoid
Some countries enforce significant restrictions on individuals who have HIV/AIDS. If you attempt to enter these countries without following appropriate procedures or are believed to be concealing your condition from authorities, you could suffer serious legal consequences – including potential jail sentences and even harsher penalties.
To find out more about potential travel restrictions throughout the world, check the consular offices of each country you are interested in. You can also find information about special exit and entrance requirements in various countries through the U.S. Department of State. The Department of State also maintains a directory of important safety warnings by country.
Discrimination is a vital consideration, but it is not the only reason why you might wish to avoid a country. Some developing nations lack the sophisticated facilities required to help you if your medication is lost or you suffer other complications. You should also consider avoiding countries that are undergoing unrest or conflict.
Countries that completely bar HIV/AIDS-positive travelers from entering include Oman, Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, Sudan, and Brunei. For more information on AIDS-specific restrictions, see the UNAIDS website.