If you’re planning a vacation or a work trip and live with HIV, advance planning will help you have a more enjoyable trip.
In most cases, HIV won’t affect or prevent you from traveling. But domestic and international travel will require some preparation. Going to a different country will require more planning.
Here are some tips to help you plan and prepare for your getaway.
Traveling when you have HIV may require extra planning and preparation. Try to book a trip a few months or more in advance.
This will provide plenty of time to meet with your healthcare provider, get medications and possible extra vaccines, confirm your insurance, and pack appropriately for your destination.
You may need to do some research before traveling internationally.
Some countries have restrictions on travel for people living with HIV. Travel restrictions are form of discrimination when you have HIV.
For example, some countries have policies regarding people with HIV entering the country or staying for a short-term visit (90 days or less) or long-term visit (more than 90 days).
Advocates around the world are working to reduce and eliminate travel restrictions, and they’ve made progress.
As of 2018, 143 countries have no travel restrictions for those living with HIV.
Here are some examples of recent progress:
- Taiwan and South Korea have abolished all existing restrictions.
- Singapore has eased its laws and is now allowing short-term stays.
- Canada is making it easier for people living with HIV to obtain a residence permit.
You can search online databases to confirm whether a country has any restrictions for travelers with HIV. Embassies and consulates are also helpful resources for more information.
Talk to your healthcare provider at least a month before your trip. They can discuss your current health status and how it may affect your travel plans. They may also perform blood tests to see how well your immune system is functioning.
At this appointment, you should also:
- Get information about necessary vaccines or medications that you may need prior to your trip.
- Request a prescription for any medications you’ll need during your trip.
- Obtain copies of any prescriptions you’ll use during your trip.
- Request a letter from your doctor outlining the medications you’ll pack and use during your trip. You may need to show this document during travel and at customs.
- Talk through any medical issues that may occur while you travel.
- Discuss clinics or healthcare providers at your destination that can assist with medical care if necessary.
Travel to certain countries requires getting new vaccines or booster vaccines. Your healthcare provider will likely review your health prior to recommending or administering certain vaccinations.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that those with HIV without severe immunosuppression should be vaccinated like any other traveler. People with HIV may require additional vaccines for conditions like measles if their immunity has worn off.
A low CD4 T lymphocyte count can alter the reaction time to vaccines. These vaccines may not be as effective or take longer to work depending on this count.
This may require you to get a vaccine further in advance or getting additional booster vaccines. Additionally, low CD4 T lymphocyte may prevent you from receiving certain vaccinations, such as for yellow fever.
Make sure you have all of the medications you’ll need to take on your trip prior to departure. Bring extra doses as well in case you experience delays when you travel.
Medications should be clearly marked and in their original packaging. Make sure you review how to best store medications. Consider whether they need to be kept at a certain temperature or hidden from light if they’re sensitive to light.
Carry a copy of the letter from your healthcare provider outlining your medications.
You can use this if a customs official asks for it or if you need to seek medical care or replace medication while you’re away.
This letter should include your healthcare provider’s contact information and the medications you take. It doesn’t need to specify why you take the medications.
Consider keeping medications in a carry-on bag if you’ll be separated from your luggage at any point. This will ensure you have your medications in case of lost or damaged luggage.
If you plan to travel by air, carrying liquid medications over 100 milliliters (mL) will require approval from either your airline or the airport. Contact your airline to determine how to carry on more liquid than the standard limit.
Make sure your insurance plan will cover any medical needs while you travel. Purchase travel insurance if you need additional coverage while you’re in a different country. Make sure you take your insurance card on your trip in case you need to seek medical care.
Traveling can come with certain risks for anyone, not just those with HIV. You want to avoid unnecessary contact with certain contaminants to avoid illness. Packing certain items may help you avoid exposure.
For travel to a country with insects carrying diseases, pack insect repellant with DEET (at least 30 percent) and clothing that covers your skin. Your doctor may prescribe medications that can prevent these diseases.
You may also want to pack a towel or blanket to use in parks and on beaches and wear shoes to prevent coming into contact with animal waste.
Also, pack hand sanitizer to use on your trip to keep your hands free from germs.
Learn about which foods to avoid if traveling to a developing country.
Avoid eating raw fruits or vegetables unless you peel them yourself, raw or undercooked meat or seafood, unprocessed dairy products, or anything from a street vendor. Avoid drinking tap water and using ice made by tap water.
It’s possible to enjoy traveling for business or leisure when living with HIV.
Make sure to see your healthcare provider in advance of a trip to review any medical issues that could interfere with your travel plans.
Preparing for travel with vaccinations, adequate medications, insurance, and the proper equipment can help ensure a positive travel experience.