If any prescription medication is being taken abroad, it needs to
be accompanied by documentation for the medication. This documentation can simply
be the medication’s original packet/bottle, which also shows the name of the
person carrying the medication and medication details. However, carrying a
letter from the prescribing doctor confirming that the medication is necessary
during the trip is also advised. This will help to minimise any problems at border
Carrying a letter that discusses HIV is not
necessary. A letter from a doctor simply needs to state that the medicines are
being carried for a chronic medical condition and that they are for personal
is carrying medication, they may be questioned about it at a country’s security
or border control. Having answers ready will help to make the process easier.
Again, HIV status does not need to be discussed but there may be a requirement
to state that the drugs are for a chronic health problem.
If a country has entry restrictions for
people with HIV, being found with HIV drugs may result in deportation. At the end of this chapter (see Countries and their restrictions), you
will find a detailed list of each country’s policies regarding entry for people
If there are definitely no
restrictions regarding people with HIV entering a country, it can sometimes
help to have a clear letter from an HIV clinic explaining that any medications
are for HIV and that the person is fit to travel. This can sometimes help to
speed up any questioning process at border control. However, this is a very
personal decision based on how an individual feels about disclosing their
Some people try to avoid carrying medications through borders but use
strategies to have access to medication in the destination country. This can
lead to difficulties. These strategies include posting medication to a friend
in a destination country and trying to obtain medication in the destination
country. Both of these strategies can cause problems and lead to doses of
medication being missed.
Taking a break from HIV medication (missing
doses) can stop medications from being effective and can lead to poor health. Treatment
breaks should not be attempted without discussion with a doctor.
can be problematic because it may result in the medication being lost or
delayed. This would leave the person with HIV unable to take their vital
medication. It may also be illegal to post the medication and post contents can
be inspected by customs. Most countries have restrictions on medicines that you
can send or take in. The restrictions vary between countries but can be checked
with the country’s embassy, consulate or High Commission. They will have
information about their restrictions on imported medicine. Postal companies
also have rules about sending medicines through the post which need to be
medication in the destination country may also be difficult. The medicine may
not be available to buy or to be prescribed. Even if it is available, it could
be extremely expensive. Some countries do not have strict controls on how a
drug is made, so it is not always possible to know exactly what is being
It can often be very difficult, or even impossible, to get prescribed
HIV medication in a foreign country. People with HIV should carry with them all of the medication that they need to last the full duration of the
trip, plus extra to allow for delays.
It’s advisable to
carry HIV medication and appropriate documentation in hand luggage. This helps
to avoid problems if luggage which is checked in becomes delayed or goes
missing. For short trips, it may be sensible to carry double the amount of
pills needed, a full dose in hand luggage and another in the checked-in baggage.
This will mean medication is available if either bag goes missing.
Carrying a bottle
of water with medications will make sure that pills can be taken if there is no
access to water. Water may need to be purchased after security checks due to
restrictions on carrying liquids. Snacks may also be needed if medicines need
to be taken with food.