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HIV positive travellers can widen their horizons with specialist travel insurance

17 March 2011 15:35

HIV pills in packets

HIV pills in packets

As countries like China and the United States have finally lifted their bans regarding HIV and immigration and others, as they develop a greater understanding, are reducing restrictions, the choice of destinations for people that are HIV positive is expanding.

What is vital to everyone with HIV, regardless of their destination, is HIV travel insurance. In the UK, travel insurance to cover HIV has been available for over twenty years. However, choose your insurer carefully. Pick a firm that really understands the condition, preferably with a fully confidential in-house medical screening service rather than outsourced screening. Your policy should also offer to cover you for associated medical problems such as hepatitis and conditions related to HIV for example haemophilia travel insurance.

Many countries will still require full disclosure of your HIV status and some will subject travellers to testing if they intend to stay for longer than one month. A travel insurance specialist will be able to advise you.

Getting ready to travel

You should take the following precautions with your medication. Firstly people with HIV cannot take live vaccines so this may affect your choice of destination. When packing for your trip always take extra medicine and supplies in case you are away from home longer than you expect or there are travel delays.

Do always carry with you a copy of your prescriptions, a list of over the counter or complementary medicines that you take, any letter from your GP relating to your condition and your ability to travel along with your travel insurance documents. When passing through airport security show the copies of your prescriptions and/or your medication bottles you have in your carry-on bag.

If you are taking injectable medications you must have the medication with you in order to carry empty syringes. Packaging is a good way to help airport security identify your medicines, so keep syringes and medicines in their original packaging with printed labels and manufacturer's information. Opening packages or taking pills out of their prescription bottles will delay your time in security. If you have any problems at airport security ask to see a supervisor.

If your medicine is temperature sensitive, carry it in an insulated travel pack to prevent it getting very hot or very cold.

Finally, think about how you will manage your dosages across different time zones to ensure you maintain medication schedule.

Staying safe and well

Be very careful with food and drink when you are travelling. Stick to piping-hot foods that are thoroughly cooked, raw fruits and vegetables that you have prepared yourself and bottled drinks (water or alcohol) or very hot tea or coffee. If you are on a special diet keep to it while you are away. Do not eat raw fruit and vegetables that someone else has prepared and do not be tempted by anything at all from a street vendor as their hygiene is often very poor. Never drink tap water, drinks made with tap water, or with ice made from tap water, or unpasteurized milk.

Tuberculosis or "TB" is very common worldwide and poses a particular threat to people with HIV as it can be very severe. Avoid hospitals and clinics where coughing TB patients are treated. When you get back home, ask your GP for a test for TB.

In many countries people allow their pets and livestock to roam and defecate freely so you should avoid direct contact with the sand or soil; make sure you always wear shoes and clothing and sit on a towel or similar to protect yourself. You should also never swim in water that might contain even very small amounts of sewage or animal waste.

Finally, take all the same precautions as you would at home to prevent the transmission of HIV – including a good supply of condoms so you can be assured of their quality.

Your insurer should also be able to offer you HIV travel insurance if you are travelling solo, with a same sex partner and/or family; so you have more choice of who to go with and as well as where to go.