When you’re living with HIV and planning to travel, there’s a few things to consider before leaving on your journey.
Some countries have restrictions on travel for people living with HIV, even for tourists and short-term stays. Check the Global Database on HIV related travel restrictions to check restrictions before you travel. This website is provided by Deutsche AIDS-Hilfe, the European AIDS Treatment Group and the International AIDS Society.
Check Smartraveller provided by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to check general travel restrictions and get destination safety advice if you’re planning an overseas trip.
Yes, you can. There are the usual cover restrictions of pre-existing conditions. Living with HIV counts 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.
Australia has a ‘Reciprocal Health Care Agreement‘ with some countries. 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 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.
Get travel insurance that will protect you in the event you get COVID (and make sure you can cancel the travel insurance easily!)
Be prepared for delays, be prepared for cancellations and be alert about COVID in the countries you are visiting.
Can I 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 HIV related travel restrictions before travelling.
Keep the medicines in their original packaging, don’t decant them (moving them into other bottles), and don’t scratch out the labels.
Don’t forget to carry a letter from your doctor. This letter does not need to mention HIV.
Plans to get medication from friends living with HIV or getting ’emergency’ medication when you’re overseas or across borders usually lead to extra problems.
Never try to make your HIV medication ‘go further’ by increasing the interval of the dose. For example instead of one pill every day, one pill every 2nd or 3rd day. This can cause you to develop resistance to your HIV medication, which means the medication can no longer control the HIV virus effectively. If you haven’t got enough medication with you, it’s safer to run completely out of your medication and stop. Then start when you can access your HIV medication again.
Try to carry enough medication for your entire trip, with some extra medication in case something goes awry.
When travelling with medications overseas or if you’re travelling into Australia, always carry a letter from your doctor listing the medications you are carrying for a ‘medical condition’ as well as a copy of your prescription. There is no requirement to state what the ‘medical condition’ is, for which the medications have been prescribed.
DOWNLOAD: Medical explanation letter when travelling.
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.
For more information on travelling with medicine and medical devices
I’m living with HIV and visiting Australia from overseas. What do I need to know?
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.
COVID continues to impact the world around us, especially related to air travel
Unvaccinated Australians can travel, but there are additional requirements and measures in place. You may be required to provide proof of vaccination when returning to Australia, particularly if you are not an Australian Passport holder.
You may need to provide proof of vaccination to enter and leave the countries you are visiting.
You do not need to test before leaving Australia (but airlines may still require it).
Get a test if you can beforehand, just to cover yourself and have a copy of the result (PCR).
Airline requirements differ, please make sure you are aware of all airline policies relating to COVID including:
Mask and PPE
Flight cancellations, transfers and specific airport rules.
It’s your responsibility to find out and follow the requirements for COVID air travel. Airlines, states and countries all have different requirements related to COVID travel.
Useful Travel Tips and Websites
Keep copies of everything, and in separate bags in case lost/stolen.
Make sure your vaccinations are all up to date, and discuss preventative tests and vaccinations with your doctor well before you travel.
Always get travel insurance! Healthcare can be extremely expensive in other countries.
Decide what visas you will need and give yourself plenty of time to apply for them.
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