Concerned that living with HIV will affect your ability to travel?
There’s a lot to consider when traveling. Add HIV into the mix and it may seem more complicated. Horror stories from the past about people living with HIV being denied entry to certain countries are terrifying. For the most part, those days are gone. Today, with proper planning, travel with HIV can be hassle-free.
Before You Leave
Let’s start with the obvious. About a month before departing, make sure you have enough medication for your trip and extra in case of return delays. Bring both written and electronic copies of all medications, dosages and contact info for your doctor and pharmacy. Always pack medications in your carry-on so that they don’t get lost with checked bags. And bring them in their original bottles. Thus, if the TSA asks, you have proof that they are legitimate.
Sick On The Trip
If you get sick and are worried it may be HIV-related, inform medical professionals about the symptoms. Let them know that you’re living with HIV, and what medications you take so they can help you can make informed treatment decisions.
If you forgot your medications or run out, and you usually receive them via mail, you can often have an emergency supply sent overnight to domestic destinations. If you get your meds through a brick-and-mortar store, they may be able to refill them locally. If a pharmacy can’t help, call your insurance company. Ask them to work with you and your doctor to make sure you can get what you need to stay healthy. In most Western European countries, a pharmacist can generally fill your prescription locally. But pay attention, as you may be offered an HIV treatment different from the regimen you are currently taking.
There are some specific considerations before traveling internationally. That means consulting with a doctor that specializes in travel medicine is a great idea. For example, such a physician may offer you a spare prescription to carry in case of emergency. It is also important to check with your insurance company to see what their procedures are for treatment and medication in foreign countries. Next, see if the place you are going has any restrictions regarding people living with HIV. There are a few essential websites to check before buying those plane tickets:
The Global Database on HIV-Specific Travel & Residence Restrictions: This database is extremely user-friendly and has very specific information about which countries have no restrictions. It also lists which have short- or long-term restrictions, and which bar entry altogether. Furthermore, it notes countries where the rules are unclear or unknown and which have a history of deporting people with HIV. hivtravel.org
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: They offer extensive information about health warnings, safety concerns and tips for successful trips. cdc.gov/travel
U.S. Department of State, U.S. Passports and International Travel: This is a great place for very specific information about potential destinations. That may include current health warnings and specific vaccinations needed. Depending on the country, certain vaccinations are required and others are merely recommended. Double-check with your doctor, but for the most part, these vaccines are not contraindicated in people living with HIV. In fact, a prominent doctor I know enthusiastically recommends getting these vaccines because treating illnesses like malaria could be especially complicated for people living with HIV. passports.state.gov
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Last modified: July 8, 2019