Travel Tips for People with HIV
If you need to take your medications with food, come prepared: Whether you’re traveling by train, plane, or automobile, pack a few snacks. You’ll also want to bring a bottle or two of water (or purchase one once you’ve passed through airport security).
Jet Setting: Meds and Time Zone Changes
You may need to adjust your medication schedule when you cross into a different time zone. Stephen Follansbee, MD, suggests waiting 24 hours and then taking your next dose at your normal time, wherever you are. If you are a few hours off it shouldn’t make a huge difference, he says. The most important thing is to stick to a regimen that’s been working for you.
A seasoned traveler, Irv takes his pills once in the morning and again in the evening. “I’m completely on vacation during the day and don’t think about HIV again until night. One thing I’ve learned about HIV is that it loves attention,” he says.
A Medication Vacation?
Although vacations can be a great opportunity to shift your attention beyond your HIV health, many doctors advise against taking a holiday from your meds. Treatment interruptions carry the risk of developing drug-resistance mutations, as well as other health problems (see “Structured Treatment Interruptions: After SMART” in the Summer 2006 issue of BETA).
“I don’t typically recommend taking a break from meds,” says Dr. Follansbee. “And I definitely don’t recommend it for travel. There are too many possible complications.” Instead, he works with patients to help streamline their daily dosing schedules and manage their pill burden.
Playing it Safe
Take all of the same precautions you would at home to prevent HIV transmission. Bring a healthy supply of condoms if that’s part of your safer sex practice—they may be harder to find or of inferior quality in some travel spots.
Even though you may be able to buy many of these items during your trip, the peace of mind of having them at hand can be worth the extra bit of room they take up in your suitcase:
- local antihistamine
- hand sanitizer
- pain relievers
- fever reducers
- anti-emetics (to treat nausea or motion sickness)
Your doctor can recommend specific travelers’ first-aid products that will not interact with your antiretroviral medications.