Entry restrictions and visas
There are entry and visa restrictions for many countries around the world for people living with HIV. For this reason it’s wise to find out if there are any restrictions for the country or countries you are planning to visit before you plan your trip. Some of these restrictions just apply to longer or more permanent moves abroad, whilst some countries won’t allow anyone with HIV to enter at all.

If you hold a British passport, or one from another EU country, and are visiting countries in the EU, you should have no problems travelling freely without restrictions. If you don’t hold a British or other EU passport you will need to check the rules that apply to you with the embassy or consulate of the country you are planning to travel to.

Until recently, HIV-positive people were, in general, not allowed to travel to the USA. However, from 4 January 2010 these restrictions no longer apply and having HIV is no longer a bar to entering the country.

This means that if you are HIV-positive and wish to travel to the USA then you are now eligible to travel without a visa under the Visa Waiver Program (which allows many travellers, including British citizens, to travel to the US without a visa for a limited period of time).

For information about the Visa Waiver Program, visit the visa pages on the US Embassy website.

To find out the latest information about entry to countries around the world, you can always contact that country’s embassy or consulate. They will be able to tell you the latest rules, but don’t give them your name or details as this may well be used against any visa application you then make if the country has restrictions.

A constantly updated and interactive database of countries with their entry restrictions can be found on the Global Database on HIV-specific Travel & Residence Restrictions by visiting www.hivtravel.org.

Another consideration to take into account before you plan your trip is homophobia. Quite a few countries around the world have anti-gay laws and / or homophobic social attitudes. If you travel to one of these countries you’ll need to be careful about people discovering that you are gay, and certainly careful about who you have sex with whilst on holiday and where you have sex with them. There is a recent case of an Australian gay man who had sex with a local man in Fiji. He was arrested and sent to prison for two years, although his sentence was overturned and he was able to return to Australia.

If you were to end up in a situation such as this there’s no guarantee that you’d be able to access appropriate healthcare and treatment for HIV. It’s also entirely possible that you could be separated from your anti-HIV drugs. This could well have serious consequences for your long-term treatment options.

If you are unsure about the laws around homosexuality in the country or countries that you are planning to travel to then it’s a good idea to find out. Your travel agent may be able to help you; alternatively a good travel guide should have a section for gay travellers which should detail the laws around homosexuality in the countries you are planning to visit.

Things to remember
Below is a handy checklist of things you might want to think about before you plan your trip, and before you travel:

Vaccinations – if you need vaccinations for the country or countries you are planning to visit, you’ll need to remember to go for them in time to develop immunity to the diseases the vaccinations are for. You’ll also need to be careful about which vaccinations you have, as certain ones are not recommended for people with HIV. Ask your doctor about what you’ll need, and see our section on Vaccinations.

Medication – make sure you have sufficient anti-HIV drugs (and other meds you need) to cover the entire period you will be away. It may be an idea to take double the amount you’ll need for your trip and put one set in your hand luggage and the other in your checked-in baggage. This way you’ll have a back-up if you were to lose some of your drugs during your trip. Also make sure you carry some water in your hand luggage in case you need to take your meds whilst travelling. If you are travelling to countries where it’s not unusual to experience an upset stomach, it’s a good idea to think about packing some anti-diarrhoea pills with you as well.

Low CD4 count – check with your HIV doctor what precautions you should take if you have a low CD4 count, especially if you are travelling to a developing country where food poisoning and / or serious infections and diseases are prevalent.

Passport – make sure your passport is not out of date, remembering that some countries won’t let you in if your passport is within 6 months of expiry. It’s also a good idea to leave a photocopy of your passport at home with a friend in case you lose it, and whilst away keep your passport in a hotel safe or somewhere else secure. Also, leave a note in your passport about who to contact in an emergency.

Visas – make sure you apply for any visas you’ll need for travel in good time. Check with the embassy or consulate of the country or countries you are travelling to about how long the process will take.

Second form of photo ID – in case you lose your passport or need ID when you are not with your passport, carry something such as a photo driving licence with you at all times.

European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) – if you are travelling to Europe, this card will entitle you to free or low cost healthcare in most countries. You can read about how to apply for an EHIC in our section on accessing healthcare abroad.

Travel insurance – make sure you have comprehensive travel insurance to cover your trip, and carry copies of your insurance documents with you in case of an emergency. There are companies who will insure you for anything related to HIV as well as the usual cover you’d expect. You can read about this in our section on travel insurance.

Copies of your prescriptions – for any medication including your anti-HIV drugs that you are taking away with you. There are some prescription medications available here that are illegal in some other countries. Check with the embassy or consulate of the countries you are travelling to and find out if any of your meds are illegal there. Carrying copies of your prescriptions will be important if you are stopped and questioned about the drugs you are carrying.

Condoms and lube – there’s no guarantee that the condoms or lube available in the country you are travelling to will be up to the same standard as in the UK. It’s therefore worthwhile packing plenty of condoms and lube to take away with you.

‘HIV’ and ‘AIDS’ in a foreign language – it may be worthwhile finding out what HIV and AIDS are called in the country you are travelling to in case you there’s an occasion (such as a medical emergency) where you need to let people know you are HIV positive. For example, in France and in Spain HIV is known as ‘VIH’ and AIDS is known as ‘SIDA’.