travel when HIV positive

Follow Up On Travel To UAE When HIV Positive

Hey there Guys. In response to my recent post on travel to UAE when HIV positive I received an email from one of my regular readers.

He has kindly allowed his email to be shared, offering his own experience of travel in UAE from a HIV positive person’s perspective.

I’ve travelled extensively with ARV’s since being diagnosed as HIV+ nine years ago now. This has included to the US (thrice, with the travel ban in force before Obama got rid of it – I was amused by your correspondent from Chicago talking about his constitutional right).

I’ve also transited Abu Dhabi numerous times as part of my hithering and thithering between Melbourne and London. I’ve never had an issue in any of these places. I know a few guys who have had stopovers and business trips in the UAE without incident, including one HIV+ man who basically lives and works in Abu Dhabi – I’ve never asked how he got/keeps his visa, and I know he divides his time between there and Frankfurt probably partly for that reason).

Anyway, the advice has always been – go, take your meds (but plan with layers of redundancy – some on your person, some in your hand baggage, some in the hold), bring the usual letter saying they’re for a medical condition (without specificity), if asked (and nobody I know has ever heard of that actually happening), say it’s something to do with your blood and your doctor told you to take these pills.

Of late I’ve never bothered to carry the letter/script – never been asked for it or heard of anyone being asked for it, although theoretically I should have it with me.

I think the only real concern is in the event of becoming seriously unwell while in a country like the UAE. Should that ever happen to me, I suspect I’d be getting my medical advice from already-established links like my HIV specialists in London or Melbourne. Most companies that have a lot of staff scattered around the world also have their own resources and processes to deal with staff who become ill (ie. cabin crew who falls ill in Dubai would probably contact Qantas Medical in the first instance. I’d hazard a guess they already know of HIV-friendly medical services in Dubai).

So it’s unlikely you’d ever be in a situation of having to disclose status to a random Dr or hospital. Unless the illness or injury is so sudden and serious that it’s a full-on live-saving emergency, in which case getting deported is the least of one’s worries (and the subject of HIV is less likely to come up anyway – more likely to be accidents or heart attacks etc).

As noted in the letter from the spokes person from Qantas if HIV medications are held discretely and letters to explain their presence do not mention HIV there is a good chance all will be ok.

This said I am a fairly risk adverse traveller. Ultimately it’s up to each individual to review the facts and to make a decision on their own situation.

Perhaps a parallel situation would have been people living with HIV travelling to the USA before the ban was lifted. I have had many friends travel with their medications. Some would replace the pills into vitamin bottles to reduce questions, some would just pack them as they were willing to take the risk.

Ultimately the decision is up to the individual.

Yours in good health.

Dr George