When you have a pre-existing medical condition, like HIV, buying travel insurance can be tricky. Fortunately, more and more companies have caught up with the fact that people living with HIV, particularly those of us on treatment, are unlikely to present with HIV-related conditions while travelling.
The best way to find the right travel insurance for your trip abroad is to do a bit of research before you travel. With policies that change frequently and prices that rise and fall all the time, talking to others living with HIV who’ve made a similar trip is incredibly helpful.
It is still common for travel companies to refuse to provide cover for HIV-related conditions, and some will provide cover if you pay an extra premium — usually a reasonably substantial one. A few will even refuse to pay out for anything if you have not declared your HIV status upfront — on the grounds that you have misled the company about the risk (even if you are not claiming for an HIV-related condition).
Disclosing your status on your application
The most important consideration for anyone travelling with HIV is whether you want or need to disclose your status on your insurance application. For most healthy people with HIV, especially those on treatment, it is unlikely that they’ll ever need to claim based on an HIV related illness (something caused by HIV- for example, a broken ankle , has nothing to do with the virus), but not disclosing can sometimes create problems if anything does happen while you’re away.
Many travel companies are prepared to offer travel insurance at normal rates, even if you disclosed your HIV status to them — provided you did not intend to claim for HIV-related conditions. A consultant from Columbus Direct Insurance suggested that there would be no problem granting insurance cover if you disclosed your HIV status over the phone, but you would not be covered for anything related to it.
Covermore (associated with Flight Centre) said that it did not need you to disclose pre-existing illnesses as long as you didn’t want to claim for them. The exception to this is if you are travelling to the Americas or Africa, where you must disclose any reduced immunity (present or past) or cover may be denied.
The company also says it could usually provide extra premium cover for people with HIV with a phone call to their medical consultants — and that if the HIV was well controlled, coverage would not be a problem.
Other companies require an assessment form to be filled out by your doctor regarding your current state of health and treatment before they will provide extra cover for HIV-related conditions.
There can still be a risk with some of the promises given above, one policy, for example, states that the company does not automatically cover claims arising from, or exacerbated by, some existing medical conditions.
This could mean that if you did not apply for HIV-specific cover and was to suffer a heart attack while overseas, or a broken leg, the insurer could regard the higher risk of that happening to be ‘exacerbated’ by HIV medications or the virus itself.
This is theoretical, and usually considered on a case by case basis. It would probably rely on a treating doctor’s report, but you have to consider that insurance companies have a history of avoiding payments if they can get out of them on a legal technicality.
Always read the fine print of insurance policies and ask questions if you are uncertain. Ring up their customer service lines and ask the hard questions. There is no need to disclose your personal details.
Reciprocal health agreements
The Australian Government has Reciprocal Health Care Agreements (RHCA) with the following countries: New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Italy, Belgium, Malta, Slovenia and Norway.
This means Australian residents can receive help with the cost of essential medical treatment while visiting these countries and visitors from these countries will receive the same service if they visit Australia.
You need to show your passport and your Medicare card to medical staff in the country you are visiting and tell them you want to be treated under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement with Australia.
If you are travelling to the Netherlands, you need to apply for an eligibility form before you travel there.
Doctors in the United Kingdom are not obliged to accept a patient for treatment under their National Health Service (NHS) and can request a private consultation fee. However, this is rare and coverage in the UK includes treatment in a hospital (as an inpatient or outpatient), ambulance and NHS prescription medicine if your doctor treats you as an NHS patient.
To check HIV travel and residence restrictions for particular countries plus treatment information and support services, the search engine at HIV Restrictions is recommended.
The travel tips available at Smart Traveller are also useful. And if you have any concerns that aren’t covered in this article, contact your local AIDS council or HIV positive organisation.
Speak to others
If you’re not already a member of The Institute of Many’s private Facebook group for people living with HIV, consider joining, because it’s a great place to meet like-minded folk in the same situation and have these conversations. There are currently over 1600 members – most live in Australia and many have a lot of experience in finding the right cover to suit their needs, or even tips on great places to visit.
Please don’t let all these considerations put you off your overseas trip. With a little pre-planning and a dash of adventurous spirit, travel can do wonders for your health and wellbeing.
If you’d like to find out more about travelling with HIV medications, click here.
(This article includes information provided by David Menadue, originally posted by Napwha)