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Tickets, money, passport, PrEP! – Travel tips for the intrepid and protected

HIV Prevention has changed dramatically in the last few years, so it’s possible you’re on board with PrEP. If so you’ll probably end up taking it on board a flight overseas with you. Here are some top tips on what to consider before you head off.

Plan ahead

You may have booked your flights and planned your outfits months in advance, but don’t forget to also plan for a sexual health check-up and to top up your PrEP before you depart. If your partner or a travel companion is living with HIV, check out our Travelling internationally with HIV article for useful information too.

If you’re one of around 10,000 Australians currently accessing PrEP, you can usually see a GP and pick up your pills locally after your regular sexual health tests. If you’re personally importing PrEP be sure to factor in enough delivery time well before you’re due to jet off into the sunset.

Going for a sexual health check-up before you travel ensures you’re not bringing along any STIs to the party.

Heading somewhere where you’re likely to get lucky? Going for a sexual health check-up before you travel ensures you’re not bringing along any STIs to the party. Time your check-up to include getting test results and treatment if necessary. Don’t forget if you do need treatment for an STI, you have to abstain from sex for a while (usually a week) after completing treatment, so factor time in for that too.

Packing

Are you one of those lucky people who’s never had a suitcase go missing in transit before? Even if that is the case it may happen at some point. To minimise the chances of losing it, keep your PrEP in your hand luggage with you at all times. If you’re feeling extra cautious you can keep a spare lot in your checked luggage too, but be sure to not exceed the amount permitted by your travel destinations. Rather than risk having your stash confiscated by customs officials, take enough with you to cover the time you’re away for plus a few spares in case that charming Brazilian dude convinces you to stay just one more day.

Some countries like Japan only allow entry with up to one months’ supply of prescription medication. Check with each of your destinations before you travel.

Where possible keep your pills in their original watertight packaging for easy identification (also in case your lube leaks) and don’t expose them to extreme temperatures – like leaving them in direct sunlight on the beach at Mykonos.

Remember that PrEP is a prescription only medication. If you run out overseas, you may not be able to easily get some more, even if it’s available in the country you’re visiting.

Paperwork

Although many tourist destinations don’t ask for it, you can ask your GP to write you an official letter explaining your medication is prescribed for your personal use. While there are no travel restrictions for people who are HIV negative, some do exist for people living with HIV. Be aware of local laws if you are travelling to these countries with PrEP. This includes places such as Russia, Iran, Iraq and United Arab Emirates.

The global database on HIV-specific travel and residence restrictions contains some information for countries you’re entering. However, as laws are subject to change it’s always best to check up to date information with the embassies of each country directly.

The Australian Government smartraveller website has more advice on travelling overseas with prescription medication.

Keeping regular

If jet lag wasn’t bad enough, switching time zones can mess up your otherwise clockwork routine. Although it’s not essential to take PrEP at the same time every day, some people find doing so helps them remember to take it.

Even if you’re changing time zones, remember it’s OK to take your PrEP a little earlier (say only 18 hours apart) if that’s what happens when crossing time zones. If you miss a day, just be sure to take your next dose as soon as you can.

Once you’re settled in to your destination, set a reminder on your phone to take it at a convenient time. Investing in a pocket or key ring watertight container means you can always keep a spare pill or two on you – just in case you’re away from your villa with that cute German guy for longer than you planned.

Being on holiday can sometimes mean you’re a little more adventurous than you might be at home. You might experience reduced inhibitions, try new things and mix up your usual routines. Enjoy yourself responsibly, make sure your PrEP is in a safe and accessible location and remember to take it, no matter what or who you get up to.

Getting in with the locals

The use of PrEP is certainly becoming more widespread in Australia, but it might be an entirely foreign concept to the friendly locals you encounter abroad. Although you’re not obliged to disclose your use of PrEP, it might not yet be understood or accepted in all countries.

Whether you have or haven’t used them for a while, taking some condoms and lube with you will ensure you’re good to go, as well as protecting yourself from STIs.

Whether you have or haven’t used them for a while, taking some condoms and lube with you will ensure you’re good to go, as well as protecting yourself from STIs.

As always, safe sex is a negotiation and it is important to be respectful of other people’s sexual health choices.

Coming home

What goes on holiday stays on holiday… Unless it’s an unexpected STI stowaway you’re bringing home. If you’ve been busy, you might want to consider another sexual health check-up as soon as you get back. Any regular buddies you’ve got eagerly awaiting your return will surely be grateful for it.

Summary

  • Check the smartraveller website for information about travelling with prescription medication
  • Book a sexual health check-up in advance, factoring in time to test and treat
  • Top up your supply of PrEP
  • Keep your PrEP with you in your hand luggage
  • Take a letter from your GP with you
  • Set a reminder to take your PrEP every day
  • Pack some condoms and lube
  • Book a sexual health check-up for when you return

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