For staff members who travel for the UN, there may be an increased risk of infection. If you don’t have information about risk and prevention you may increase your risk of exposure to HIV and other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Being away from home, we have a chance of having sex with casual partners which increases the risk of exposure to STDs. In some countries, a large proportion of STDs now occur as a result of unprotected sexual intercourse during international travel.
Many of us may relax during travel by drinking alcoholic beverages and this may further impair our judgement leading to risky behaviours.
In addition to transmission through sex, HIV is also transmitted through transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products and the use of contaminated needles, so we need to take extra precautions in case of accidents while travelling.
There is no risk of getting HIV when sharing any means of communal transport with infected individuals such as airplanes, boats, buses, cars or trains. There is no evidence that HIV can be acquired from insect bites, such as mosquito bites.
When travelling, here are some 'universal precautions' to take:
- Have a pre-travel medical examination and get appropriate vaccinations for your destination.
- Visit the UNDSS website https://dss.un.org/dssweb/. Here you can apply for security clearance if you are traveling to an area under security phase, you can complete the mandatory online courses and you can read travel advisories for the country you will visit. Keep in mind that security officers in country can provide assistance in case you need to access Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP).
- Arrange for an adequate supply of your prescribed medication(s).
- Find out about UN medical services available in the country of destination.
- Ask the UN medical service if you can carry sterile disposable needles and syringes for your personal use as part of the UN medical kit if you are going to a country where facilities are not safe.
- Obtain a medical alert bracelet for medical conditions such as diabetes or drug allergies.
- Be aware of emergency medical evacuation procedures and whom to contact for PEP.
- Reduce your risk of injury by following safety precautions such as using seatbelts and driving carefully.
- Ask if there is a first-aid kit in every vehicle on field trips and cross border missions.
- If you are injured or lose blood, ask if it is possible to use a plasma substitute. Efforts should be made to ensure that any blood you receive has been screened for HIV.
Ask your doctor about any precautions or needs for travel planning. Have the doctor counsel and evaluate the risk-benefit balance of preventive actions such as vaccinations and anti-malarials to minimize the avoidable risks associated with travel.
Some countries screen incoming travellers for HIV, although this is primarily those arriving for extended visits. Some of these countries may deny entry to persons with AIDS and/or those who are HIV positive. Moreover, travellers carrying antiretroviral medication may be denied entry to some countries. An unofficial list of such countries is compiled by the U.S. Department of State. If you have any concerns or questions, you should check with the UN medical services in your country.
Here are some additional sources regarding travel and HIV (pages will open in a new browser window):
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Testing Requirements for Entry into Foreign Countries
This database lists country-by-county how each government of the world does or does not impose these outdated and discriminatory laws. While these restrictions are commonly referred to as “travel restrictions”, the effect these laws have on individuals and families is more serious than this term may imply.
International travel tips for people living with HIV
A comprehensive website, produced by the US Centers for Disease Control.