HIV positive and planning to travel? Here's a few things to consider before leaving on your journey.
Can I travel anywhere?
Some countries have restrictions on travel for people living with HIV, even for tourists and short-term stays. The following websites can help you check restrictions before you travel.
Do I have to take my medication with me or can I buy it overseas?
That will depend on which country you visit. If you are travelling for a short time as a tourist or for work then it is best to ensure you are travelling with enough medications to cover your trip. Make sure you carry enough medications within your carry-on luggage, just in case your booked luggage goes missing. Make sure you have checked the travel restrictions before.
When travelling with medications overseas or to Australia you should also carry a letter from your doctor listing the medications you are carrying for a ‘medical’ condition. There is no requirement to state the medical condition for which the medications have been prescribed.
For more information also visit: www.afao.org.au
Can I get covered by travel insurance?
Yes, you can. There are the usual cover restrictions of pre-existing conditions. Being HIV positive would count as a pre-existing condition. If you are on effective anti-retroviral treatments and discussed your travel with your doctor then it is unlikely you will develop any HIV related problems. In Australia you must declare your HIV status, but this does not exclude you from getting insurance. In Australia, it is illegal to discriminate against someone due to their HIV status.
With some countries Australia has a “Reciprocal Health Care Agreement”. That means coming from Australia, you are already covered for some health care in those countries that Australia has an agreement with. Find out which countries are covered by the agreement.
If HIV isn’t covered, do I really need travel health insurance?
Yes, definitely! Health care can be very expensive in other countries. There are still a number of things that could happen to you, like an accident or you could catch a serious stomach bug and need to see a doctor.
It's important that you are able to get access to the best available care and get back home if you need to and travel insurance is the best way to ensure there are fewer complications in doing this.
Before you head off...
If you’re on HIV treatments make an appointment with your doctor at least one month before you travel to discuss the vaccinations and preventative tests you might need to undertake before your travel. Ensure with your doctor that your HIV is not likely to be a problem while you are travelling.
If you are not on treatments it is advisable not to start antiretroviral treatments too close to your travel date. Discuss this with your doctor.
A letter from your doctor plus a copy of your prescription can help if you get any questions at customs about your medication. Click here for an example wording of a letter to carry.
For more information on travelling with medicine and medical devices https://youtu.be/cj5FAsIhmz8
A good resource is The positive traveller
Further useful links from NAPWHA
I’m HIV positive and visiting Australia from overseas.
What do I need to know?
- Check if the country you're coming from has a “Reciprocal Health Care Agreement” with Australia.
- Organise your medication. If there is no “Reciprocal Health Care Agreement” you might consider bringing your medication with you when you travel to Australia.
- Organise travel insurance. If your country of origin does not have a reciprocal agreement with Australia it is advisable to have travel insurance organised before your arrival or on your arrival. Some people assume that healthcare is ‘free’ in Australia which is only true for its residents, those with a permanent resident visa or other visa where it is clear that access to healthcare is part of that visa. For everyone else the provision of healthcare is expensive and can add an unexpected significant financial burden to your trip.
- Decide what visa you need! Changing your visa once you have arrived in Australia can be difficult. In terms of your obligations to declare your HIV-status, granting of visas and other legal responsibilities for working and travelling in Australia, this link to the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre will provide some assistance. There are no HIV restrictions on visitor visas, unless you have a communicable disease, such as untreated Tuberculosis (TB) or you have been travelling in Africa. In these circumstances you are obligated by immigration laws to declare these at the boarder otherwise the penalties are quite harsh and you may be deported immediately. You can find more information on The Department of Immigration and Boarder Protection website.
- Travel Insurance for pre-existing medical condition