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HIV Travellers

HIV infection should not be a barrier to travel, as long as you are currently attending a specialist clinic, are not acutely unwell, are stable on treatment or are not on treatment but have a stable CD4 count (as determined by your specialist).

Some countries still have in place travel restrictions for HIV positive travellers.  These can vary over time and on the level of enforcement practiced by the countries.  Prior to travel to should check that there are no restrictions at your destination, further information is available from hivtravel.orgIcon Newwindow and aidsmap.comIcon Newwindow

HIV positive travellers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) should also be aware that cultural attitudes and laws regarding LBGT people vary significantly around the world, further information is available on the LGBT traveller

General Rules

HIV infection should not be a barrier to travel, as long as you are currently attending a specialist clinic, are not acutely unwell, are stable on treatment or are not on treatment but have a stable CD4 count (as determined by your specialist).

Medical Review

Ideally you should plan your  trip well in advance of travel.  A minimum of 8 weeks pre-travel you should seek both a review by your specialist to ensure your health is optimised and by a travel medicine specialist for advice on reducing travel-associated disease risks, malaria prophylaxis and guidance on vaccination.

Reducing Risk of Travel Related Illness

Vaccination is not the only way to reduce the risk of travel related disease. Guidance on reducing the risk of travel-related health problems should be sought, particularly when some vaccines cannot be given or the response to vaccines maybe reduced.

Gastrointestinal Infections

  • Discussing Food and Water Precautions with your health advisor will reduce the risk of both vaccine preventable and non-preventable infections, e.g. hepatitis A, or salmonella infection.

Respiratory/Airborne Infections

  • 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.
  • The risk of many respiratory infections can be reduced by practising strict hand hygiene and avoiding direct contact with people who appear unwell, and avoiding contact with secretions from their eyes, nose and mouth (e.g. coughs and sneezes).

Insect-borne Infections

  • Vaccines do not exist against the majority of insect-borne infections.  Practising Insect Bite Avoidance is the main way to reduce this risk.
  • Malaria – HIV positive travellers are not at a higher risk of acquiring malaria but the consequences of infection may be more severe. Being aware of the risk of infection, practising Mosquito Bite Avoidance and ensuring that any antimalarial drugs prescribed do not interfere with routine medications is important.

Sun Exposure

  • Minimising Sun Exposure is important:
    • Immunocompromise can lead to increased risk of tumours, including those of the skin.

First Aid:

  • Skin injury and infection is common in all travellers.
    • You should be familiar with simple First Aid.

Accidents and Injury

  • Accidental injury or violence is a greater risk during travel than infectious disease and it is important you reduce this risk by carefully planning your itinerary and activities - see Accident Prevention.

Travel Insurance and Accessing Medical Care Abroad

  • You must ensure you have appropriate Travel Insurance which covers medical evacuation and repatriation. It is important that you declare your HIV status to your travel health insurer. HIV specialist insurers are available, for further information see The Terence Higgins TrustIcon Newwindow In addition you should ascertain pre-travel how to access reliable medical care during your trip.

Travelling with Medication

  • The majority of HIV positive travellers will be on regular prescription medication.  You should be familiar with issues regarding Travelling with Medicines before your trip.

Vaccination

Travel vaccine recommendations for HIV positive are similar to those for HIV negative travellers.  However you should be aware that:

  • Some vaccines i.e. yellow fever, generally cannot be given if you have a low CD4 count.
    • This should be assessed and discussed with you at a travel consultation.
  • The immune response to vaccination may be reduced, take longer to develop and may not last as long if your CD4 count is low.
    • Additional boosters may be required.
    • Vaccination does not guarantee protection.  You should follow additional advice on preventing infection (see above).

Pre-travel you should ensure you are up to date with all recommended non-travel vaccinations.  This can be discussed with your Specialist or General Practitioner.

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