For persons with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes AIDS, travel can pose some special risks. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), travel, especially to developing countries, can increase the risk of contracting opportunistic infections. These infections are referred to as opportunistic because a person's weakened immune system gives the infection the opportunity to develop.
Special precautions that should be taken if you are traveling with HIV include the following:
Consult your physician or a travel medicine expert as early as possible about the health risks that exist in the areas you plan to visit. Your physician can offer suggestions about staying healthy in places where certain illnesses may pose special threats. Ask for names of physicians who treat HIV in the regions you plan to visit.
During travel to developing countries, persons infected with HIV are at an even higher risk for food and waterborne disease than they are in the United States. Take extra precautions to avoid any uncooked foods and make sure all water is either boiled or bottled.
Traveler's diarrhea is a common problem. Carry a three- to seven-day supply of medicine to treat it. Consult your physician for more information on appropriate medication for you.
Waterborne infections may also result from swallowing water during recreational activities. Reduce your risk of these infections by avoiding swallowing water during swimming, and avoiding swimming in water that may be contaminated.
Take precautions against insect-borne diseases in areas where this is a problem. Use insect repellents with DEET and mosquito-netting treated with permethrin in areas where malaria or dengue fever is prevalent. Persons with HIV infections are urged to avoid areas where yellow fever is found.
Tuberculosis is very common worldwide and can be very serious in persons with HIV. Avoid hospitals and clinics where tuberculosis patients are treated and be sure to be tested when you return to the United States.
Take all medications as prescribed by your physician.
If you are on a special diet, adhere to your meal plan as much as possible while traveling.
Take all of the same precautions that you take at home to prevent transmitting HIV to others.
Ask your physician about special vaccinations which may be necessary before you travel. Make sure all of your routine immunizations are up-to-date. This is especially important for children with HIV who are traveling.
There are other special considerations regarding vaccinations. In general, killed virus vaccines are safe for persons with HIV; however, they may not have optimal effectiveness in these persons. Live virus vaccines should be avoided by persons infected with HIV. Certain diseases pose special risks, so review your itinerary thoroughly with your physician to assess areas that may be dangerous to visit.
Consult your physician or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for more information regarding specific immunizations you may need before you travel.
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