Positive Living: Looking After Yourself (cont.)

Taking Care While Traveling Internationally

Don't overexert yourself - get plenty of rest before, during and after your trip, especially if you travel to a different time zone and experience "jet lag." It is perfectly all right to take naps or spend an evening or day in your hotel room, even if you are in Paris. Save your energy for the things most important to you. If you tire easily, take taxis or public transportation and minimize the walking.

Try to avoid stress. This may be the toughest part of all, because traveling involves a change of surroundings and change is usually stressful. Remember that you are seeking change-expect it, and enjoy it. If you're a victim of pickpockets or some other petty crime, don't let it ruin the rest of your trip. It's out of your control. You can replace whatever was taken and get on with your life.


Will your medications be readily available in the countries where you will be traveling? If so, have your health care provider write out a generic prescription for each medication you will take with you, and carry these separately, just in case the medications are lost and you need a replacement. If not, be sure you have enough medication to get you through your trip. You may want to split them up so that if some are lost, you will have others stashed elsewhere.

Don't pack your pills into luggage to be checked aboard an aircraft - keep them on you in their original containers. It is true that in countries with HIV restrictions, this could be a giveaway to customs inspectors that you are HIV positive. However, if they are not in their original containers, they could be confused with illegal drugs by immigration officers. Also, make sure that antimalarial medication and antibiotics commonly used for traveler's diarrhea do not interact with other medications that you are using on a regular basis. Finally, plan ahead how you will keep medications refrigerated if this is required.

If you are traveling far, especially across multiple time zones, consider writing out a timetable for taking your medicines, starting in your current time zone and gradually (over several days) phasing in to your new time zone. Ask your provider or pharmacist to help you construct this table so that you keep taking the medications at their proper intervals: some need to be taken every 24 hours, some every 12 hours, some at 8 hour intervals, and so on. Once you have established your old routine in the new locale, you can carry on as usual, but you will need such a table for the return trip as well.


Some countries have policies that screen incoming travelers for HIV (especially those planning to stay for an extended period of time), and refuse entry to persons with HIV or AIDS.

If you are planning to visit a foreign country, you should be familiar with the policies and requirements of that particular country. Don't wait until you arrive to find out that you will not be allowed to enter the country. Information on visa policies is available from the local offices of the State Department and the consulates of the individual nations. We suggest you give them a call before making any solid travel plans. This information can be obtained anonymously or under a fake name.

Vaccines for Traveling

If you grew up in the United States or Western Europe, chances are you received many vaccinations for school. If you are going abroad, however, you may need to get other immunizations or update those you already have. In addition, there is now a vaccine for hepatitis-A, an illness that can result in serious diarrhea and is common in some countries. Because you are HIV positive, all of these vaccines are especially important.

However some vaccines, such as yellow fever, typhoid and poliomyelitis, contain live viruses that can be harmful to people who have weak immune systems. Talk to your health care provider or the travel clinic at the Health Department to find out about recommended vaccines.

Finally, see your health care provider when you return from your trip. If you develop any health problems after you have been home for a while, be sure to remind your provider of the trip.

Source: King County Public Health

Last Editorial Review: 5/14/2004