In honour of World AIDS Day, we explore how an HIV-positive diagnosis can affect where and how you travel.
Kevin joined Out Adventures as Sales Manager after seven years at Porter Airlines (Condé Nast Traveler’s Best Small Airline in the World). He came out at the young age of 16 and was diagnosed HIV positive by 23. Early on in his diagnosis, Kevin actively decided he would never let HIV dictate his life. Kevin helps support his HIV peers by participating in and fundraising during the annual Toronto AIDS Walk.
Christoforos (Chris) Mallouris
Chris works for UN AIDS as a Senior Community Support Advisor for East and Southern Africa. He is an activist and passionate advocate for the meaningful engagement of people living with HIV/AIDS in all of their diversity. Chris changed careers soon after his HIV diagnosis in 2000, leaving the world of academia and astrophysics to be part of the global response to AIDS.
About World AIDS Day
World AIDS Day takes place on December 1st each year. It’s an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.
How many countries restrict travel based on an HIV-positive diagnosis?
Forty-eight countries have some form of travel restriction(s) surrounding HIV/AIDS. In fact, until 2012, HIV-positive travellers entering the United States were forced to disclose their diagnosis.
You can find up-to-date information on HIV travel restrictions on unaids.org.
What risks could exist if you don’t communicate an HIV-positive diagnosis?
The primary risk is deportation. Although rare, some examples exist of travellers being arrested.
As Chris correctly points out, travellers already feel vulnerable entering a new country. Being an HIV-positive traveller exacerbates stress and vulnerability. Further, disclosing one’s status throws individuals back to a time in their life when they may have felt, “Is there something wrong with me?”.
HIV Disclosure Laws: What you should know
The laws surrounding HIV/AIDS disclosure, exposure, and transmission vary from country to country. The website hivjustice.net is a great resource that maps out every country’s criminalization laws, how they are applied and what recent legal cases exist. It is important to be informed about some of the risks you may not have thought about.
Disclosure – Whether or not an HIV-positive person communicates their status before they have sex.
Exposure – Whether or not an HIV-positive person may have exposed someone to HIV, but the actual transmission may not have happened.
Transmission – In cases where transmission of HIV has occurred.
Practical Tips for travelling with HIV
Before you travel
- Pack enough medication for the duration of your trip plus (at least) one extra week’s worth in case of delays.
- Map out gay-friendly doctors, local HIV organizations, or gay advocacy groups. This will help you in case of an emergency or lose medication.
- Take care of any pre-existing medical issues before you jet off. For example, dental care should be addressed beforehand because international dentists may not be familiar with HIV-positive patients.
During your trip
- Never check your medication on flights! You don’t want to risk it getting lost in your luggage.
- It may be worth hiding your medication and prescription when travelling to countries with strict HIV travel laws.
Season 3 of The Gay Travel Podcast is brought to you by GayCities: Know where to go, stay, and eat in over 240 destinations worldwide.
Image credits from the top down: Cody Black & Unsplash.com, Kevin Robitaille, Chris Mallouris.
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