International travel

Going to a foreign country can be a highly enjoyable and exciting experience, but if things go wrong, a trip can become daunting. Having HIV needn’t stop you travelling, but you should do a bit of extra planning before you go away.

Travel-related health issues are largely the same for HIV-positive people with good immune systems and HIV-negative people. However, there are some issues that every HIV-positive traveller should think about, such as access to medical care and medication supply.

It's always a good idea to ask yourself if you're in good enough health to make a trip. This is especially important if you've been recently unwell, have new and undiagnosed symptoms, or have a weak immune system. Speak to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team, or go for a check-up, in plenty of time before setting off. 

If you are on HIV treatment, or any other medications, ensure that you take an adequate supply with you, as they may be hard or impossible to obtain abroad. Medicines should be clearly labelled. At some countries' customs and immigration points, it will help to have a doctor's letter stating that you need the treatments. There’s a lot more information on travelling with your medication in the section Travel.

It is sensible to research local medical facilities before travelling to another country, particularly if local medical care is likely to be relatively restricted.

Make sure that you have the right travel and medical insurance. Most policies won’t cover medical conditions that you were aware of when you took out the policy. For more on travel insurance, see the section Travel.

Coughs are a common problem among travelers. They are mostly caused by upper respiratory tract infections. In general, the types of respiratory infections affecting travellers are the same as those seen in the general public.

Cases of infection with lung diseases such as TB, pneumonia and flu acquired during air travel are very few and far between, and are usually the result of sitting very close to someone with the infection. People with tuberculosis must not travel by air until they have been told by their doctor that they are no longer infectious.

Travellers' diarrhoea is usually caused by the contamination of food or water with bacteria. It affects about 40% of travellers to developing countries, even when they have perfectly intact immune systems, but can be a particular problem for people with HIV. The most common cause of diarrhoea after travelling is giardiasis, which can be treated quite easily in people with HIV.

Following advice about personal and food hygiene is the best way to protect yourself against travellers’ diarrhoea.

Contact NAM to find out more about the scientific research and information used to produce this section.

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.