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Travel Tips for People Living With HIV

March 2013

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Many of the newer HIV drugs have fairly easy dosing schedules. Compared to the "old days" when people living with HIV (HIV+) took handfuls of pills three and four times a day, some people are now fortunate enough to be able to take one or two pills just once or twice a day.

Whether you are taking one pill or several, from home or an exciting travel destination, it is still important to stick to your assigned dosing schedule. Traveling with your HIV drugs -- and staying on your schedule -- can seem a bit hard or scary at first, but HIV should not prevent anyone who needs to travel for work or wants to see old friends or new places from doing so. And once you get the hang of it, it can be quite easy to manage your meds while you are on the road.

Pack Your Pills First

It is one thing if you forget your socks, or your shaving kit, or even your address book. You can replace those items when you reach your destination or you can get along without them. You can not get along without your HIV drugs, not even for a day, so pack them first -- and pack them carefully.

Count out your pills for how long you will be away and transfer them to appropriate containers. It is wise to take a two-day backup supply of your HIV drugs with you in case of any travel delays. At home you may use a subdivided seven-day plastic pillbox to hold all your drugs, but for travel it is often more convenient to carry your pills in something smaller, like relabeled film canisters, sturdy, resealable plastic bags, or even a pocket-sized plastic tackle box. However, if you are traveling internationally or anywhere by plane, you should carry your meds in their original bottles clearly marked with the prescribing information so that security or customs will not give you too much trouble.

Pack your pills in a carry-on bag -- and nowhere else. There is no guarantee that your flight will depart on time or arrive on time or that checked baggage will be waiting for you at your destination.

If you carry your pills on board, you can take any doses you need while on the plane and you will be prepared to take additional doses later if there is any sort of travel delay. The airline may not be able to keep to its flying schedule, but you will be able to keep to your dosing schedule and that is the important thing.

Food and Water

The HIV drug regimen you are on may have dietary restrictions: certain pills should be taken on an empty stomach, others must be taken with a meal or snack, and all of them should be taken on schedule.

Not all airlines offer food on flights these days, and even if they do, there is no way of knowing when you will get fed on an airplane, or whether the food will be anything you want to eat. It is best to carry food with you if you need to eat when you take your medicine.

The same is true for water. If you are driving or taking a bus or train, you should bring your own. However, with some of the latest airport restrictions you may have to ask for water rather than take it on board with you. Most of the time the flight attendants will help you out by bringing a glass of water right away if you mention that you need to take medicine.

Asking for water as soon as you board the plane is a good plan. If you have ever flown across the country, you may have noticed how long it can take a group of flight attendants to get down the aisles of an airplane with a beverage for each passenger. You may find yourself with a very dry mouth and unable to swallow even a single pill, so it is important to ask for water in advance!

Beyond that, if you are flying, it is good to drink plenty of fluids; the recycled air on airplanes is very dry and several hours of flying can be dehydrating. To varying degrees, dehydration (having too little water in your body) affects all passengers on long flights, and HIV+ people need to be especially careful that they do not allow themselves to get dehydrated. So take every opportunity to get a beverage and make a point of drinking throughout the flight, not simply when you feel thirsty. Thirst is a sensation we often feel after we have already become slightly dehydrated.

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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
See Also
More on Traveling When You're HIV Positive

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