Prior to my HIV diagnosis, my boyfriend and I had spent quite a bit of time abroad in recent years, in fact we’d talked about relocating to Germany on a more permanent basis. I had worried that being HIV positive might be an added complication to our travel plans.
I was aware that travel restrictions existed for people with HIV, though I didn’t really understand where was off limits, where was welcoming, and what terms and conditioned applied – would travel insurance suddenly become far more expensive? We decided a holiday was in order, the best way to find out of HIV would become an issue in our travel plans was to plan a holiday and just do it.
Finding out the countries where people living with HIV are (and aren’t) welcome was fairly easy. UNAIDS has a handy infographic…
A vast majority of the countries that we’d be likely to want to visit are currently okay. Though I may like to visit Australia someday, their restrictions aren’t so bad that it’d prevent a short holiday. Russia is another country both my boyfriend and myself would love to visit, however due to the regime’s attitude towards homosexuality it seems unlikely we’d feel welcome there, regardless of HIV status.
We decided on a short trip across Europe by train. Eurostar from London, through France and into Belgium, with a stay in Brussels, then the high-speed ICE from Brussels to Cologne in Germany, a couple of days there, then a sleeper train through the night from Cologne to Berlin, and after a couple of days in Berlin a flight back to London.
I did a bit of research on travelling with HIV. The Terrance Higgins Trust website has a whole section packed with information. Taking my medication through border control was my biggest concern, I had no prescription to prove what they were for, and they are not labelled with my name. Thankfully my clinic was able to provide me with a letter explaining that the medication I was travelling with is required for a ‘chronic medical condition’. HIV isn’t mentioned, though if asked what the meds were for I’d have no issue disclosing.
Next up, travel insurance. I expected this to be excessive, and actually the first quote we got was over £70. However, after shopping around we found a company willing to cover me for about £20, so as is usually the case with insurance, it’s worth shopping around and using comparison sites. There were a few questions about my condition, they needed to know my most recent CD4 count, and how long I’d been on my current meds.
As it turned out, no one at border control in any of the countries questioned why I was travelling with meds. The letter from my clinic gave me peace of mind though – I don’t know how I’d react if for some reason my meds were taken away from me.
I won’t bore you with holiday photos, but I was pleased to have found this street art close to our hotel in Brussels…
It feels good to know that HIV won’t prevent me from seeing the world with my boyfriend. As for the longer term plan of relocating to Germany, it doesn’t seem like HIV would be an issue with that either.
Thanks for reading :-)
Side note: A few weeks ago a group of Conservative MPs tried to introduce a bill which would apply entry restrictions here in the UK. Their aim was to make it possible to refuse entry to people with HIV, Hepatitis B, or ‘other pathogens’. The bill was not entered into law, but it’s a reminder that despite travel restrictions being lifted in some parts of the world (such as the USA in 2010), there are people fighting to introduce new restrictions even here.