AIDS and International Travel
One of the greatest worries of international travelers these days is the fear of contracting AIDS. This is also a worry of host countries, judging by the number of them (including the U.S.) which require AIDS testing of foreign visitors. Rules vary tremendously from time to time and country to country as to what testing is required and how and where. Some require HIV tests of all visitors while others only of those who intend to stay a long time or work in the host country. Some will accept the results of a test done in the U.S. while others insist on doing their own test.
For this reason, it is advisable to check on this with a Travel Medicine specialist or with the embassy of the country you wish to visit.
If it is likely that you will have to be tested upon arrival, you should consider taking along your own syringes and needles. Those used on other places may not be sterile and could expose you to the very disease for which you are being tested. For this reason, some travelers also carry with them a little kit for drawing blood and administering intravenous fluids (see our catalog.) Carrying syringes and needles through customs, however, may be problematic so it is best to have a letter on your physician's letterhead explaining the need for these items.
Many foreign countries do not have the facilities to do the blood tests that have become standard procedure in the U.S. Thus, one's risk of being exposed to HIV and hepatitis via blood transfusion is much more abroad than at home. Only in an absolutely life-threatening situation, therefore, should one ever accept a blood transfusion abroad.
The fear of AIDS in other countries may also present the traveler with some other problems. Men seen traveling together in twos may be suspected, rightly or wrongly, of being homosexual and then be subjected to luggage searches or other types of harassment. For that reason we advise men traveling together to go separately through customs.
What if you DO have AIDS? Certainly that may not restrict either your ability or your wish to travel. But it may hamper your freedom to do so. Especially if you have to travel with a lot of medications. Customs officials worldwide have become quite adept at identifying they types of medications that AIDS patients need to take. How best to handle this will vary a lot depending on individual circumstances and should be discussed with your individual Travel Medicine specialist.