If you find yourself stranded abroad and are away from home for longer than you expected, running out of antiretroviral drugs could be a problem.
There are a number of options for people running out of medication, depending on where you are. In all cases it is very important to provide as much documentation as possible in order to limit the cost to you.

People with HIV who are stranded in the United Kingdom and running out of HIV medication can approach HIV clinics in the UK for medication, but may be charged at the discretion of the clinic. Whether an individual is charged will depend on their country of residence. The following pages will help you find a clinic in the UK if you need one:

If you are from a country in the European Economic Area (European Union plus Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) you will not be charged if you can produce your European Health Insurance card. If you cannot produce your card you will be charged and issued with a receipt, and you can claim the cost when you return home. If you do not have this card you can obtain one from your country's embassy in the United Kingdom, usually within 24 hours. If you are from a country outside the EEA with a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom you will not be charged if you can show your passport. Here is a list of countries with reciprocal agreements.

If your country of residence does not have a reciprocal health agreement with the UK you will be charged. In London a number of National Health Service HIV clinics are issuing medication. At the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for example, individuals needing medication can obtain an appointment with an HIV doctor and will receive a prescription for two weeks’ worth of medication.

Policies may vary at other clinics, and British HIV Association chairman Dr Ian Williams is writing to all HIV doctors in the UK to ask them to be flexible if approached by patients who are not registered at their clinic. In addition to the cost of drugs, some clinics may charge a fee for the consultation with a doctor.

People with HIV from the UK who are stranded overseas can approach local HIV clinics or support organisations for help. AIDSMAP offers a search for organisations and clinics by country on their website.

What you pay will depend on where you are. If you have the European Health Insurance card you can use this throughout the European Economic Area to obtain whatever is freely available through the local health system. You will have to pay any local costs that would be normally met by local residents from their own pockets or health insurance, such as co-payments on medicines.

A similar situation applies for countries outside the European Economic Area with whom the UK has reciprocal health agreements. You can check the list and find out what is freely available and find general advice for British citizens on health care abroad.

Your clinic in the UK should be able to provide a letter by email or fax detailing what treatment you are receiving and what drugs you need - in particular the correct dosages. However you should be aware that many HIV doctors may be away from their offices this week, attending the British HIV Association annual conference. If you do not have contact details for your HIV clinic, you can find them in our Clinics and Prevention Services section. 

An NHS prescription is not valid overseas and you may need to obtain an appointment with a doctor in order to get a prescription, but this will not be the case in all countries. In some countries it is possible to buy antiretrovirals without a prescription from a pharmacy.

To obtain medication in countries outside the European Economic Area, with whom the UK does NOT have a reciprocal agreement, you will most likely have to pay and, where possible, claim on insurance. If this is not feasible, you may be able to contact positive men who are resident in the area you are staying through a community organisation or a community website, who may be able to lend you the medication you need. Here are two resources that might help you do this: