Home For The Holidays – Traveling With Your HIV Medications

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year already! As you
are busy preparing for the holiday season and making plans
to visit with family and friends, you will need to add one
more thing to your already long list of things to do. Anyone
with a chronic disease has to consider their health when
traveling, and HIV is no exception. You must give some
thought to your HIV treatment and the medications that you
are taking before you pack up and leave.This article will focus mainly on travel within the United
States, although I will briefly touch on a few special
considerations regarding international travel. If you will
be traveling internationally, you should find out in advance
if the country you are planning to travel to has any
restrictions on entry for people who are HIV positive; many
countries, including the United States, ban people with HIV
from entering. Discuss your travel plans with your doctor to
determine if any special precautions or vaccinations will be
necessary. You should be up to date with your influenza,
pneumonia, tetanus, diphtheria, and hepatitis A and B
vaccines. If you are traveling across international time
zones, you may want to ask your healthcare provider,
adherence counselor, or pharmacist to help you work out a
plan for adjusting the times of your dosages to avoid long
intervals between doses. Find out in advance where you would
go if you were to require medical care, and check into
getting travel insurance that does not exclude emergency
treatment for HIV related illnesses. If you are fortunate
enough to be going to a warm and sunny place, check with
your pharmacist if any of your medications cause an
increased sensitivity to the sun, and bring lots of
sunscreen with you.Discuss your plans to travel with your healthcare provider,
and ask for a brief medical letter to carry with you. At the
very least, you should have a copy of your latest
blood-work, including your CD4 cell count and HIV viral
load. Do not start any new medications within 4 weeks prior
to traveling in case you should have an allergic reaction.It is important to remember that taking a vacation does not
mean that you take a “vacation” from your medications. As
you have undoubtedly heard many times from your healthcare
provider, anything less than 95% – 100% adherence to your
medications may result in your HIV becoming resistant to
your medications, which will cause them to stop working.
Whenever your usual schedule and routine is changed, it will
take a little bit of extra thought and planning to ensure
that you are able to stay on track with your medications.Whenever you travel, be sure to bring enough of all of your
medications with you, as it may be impossible to get these
medications when you are away from home. Count out your
doses, and take several days worth of extra medications with
you in case you get delayed or decide to lengthen your trip.
Pack your medications in your carry-on luggage to avoid
losing it. You should also carry a letter from your doctor
listing your medications and stating that they are being
taken for a chronic medical condition.You may want to invest in some pillboxes to help you to stay
on track. Consider prefilling a 7-day pillbox for each week
that you will be away, and take along a few tiny single dose
pillboxes that you can discreetly carry in your pocket or
purse; this will be especially helpful if you will be
spending time with people who are unaware of your HIV
status.Do a little bit of planning in advance, and then enjoy your
vacation.