Planning a Vacation While Living with HIV
Last updated: July 2023
I'm starting to get plans together for our upcoming Alaskan cruise. While I'm making sure I have the recommended attire and the suitable excursions planned, I know that as a person living with HIV, there are other equally important things to prepare for.
I learned that a vacation could be filled with unique challenges when we were stranded in Mexico during 9/11. I found myself with a dwindling supply of medication in an area with little to no support services available. I had no idea whom to turn to. And when we did finally locate a doctor, he cut short our visit when he realized the medications I was worried about treated HIV.
Do you plan to travel this year?
After the Mexico scare, I began planning my forays out of town more carefully. This also coincided with a new job I took that required frequent travel throughout the southeastern United States.
I always start with counting my pills. Knowing when I will be running out of medicine and tracking that against when I am out of town helps me to plan accordingly.
I mark on my calendar if I need a refill before, during, or after the trip. If it's during the, I check to see if there is a pharmacy that I can use. If so, I will call beforehand and let them know about my travel plans and discuss the availability of the medicine. Sometimes the pharmacist will have to order the prescription ahead of time.
This may also require a call to the insurance company to approve an early refill. I've done this several times when I cannot purchase the medicine at my destination. I fill them at my drugstore before I leave and pack the extra pills.
Planning my doses
In addition to any extra medication I may bring, I always travel with a daily pill box. One of my first tasks on my arrival is to fill it up.
I don't know about you, but when I'm traveling, I sometimes get distracted by all the sights and sounds of my location. Using a box to track my pills, I can always see whether I have taken my daily dose.
I also set reminders on my phone calendar and alarms. The calendar reminders will get deleted after I take my pills. This is an additional check for me to stay on point. I find this method useful if I'm doing activities all day long.
The alarm on my phone tells me it's time to take medicine. I always take into account time changes and set the times correctly.
My final tip is to pack your pills in a travel bag that will never leave your side. You never know what unexpected circumstances may occur, so plan well.
This or That
When feeling down, what helps you the most?
When it comes to long trips or travel out of the country, I do other things to ensure a safe and well-planned escape.
The first is to check any CDC guidance for the area I'm traveling to. As people living with compromised immune systems, we need to be aware of any additional threats to our health that may exist at our destination.
I also like to look at what HIV support services may be available. That's whether I am in the United States or not. Knowing who I can turn to if a health issue arises can take much worry out of an emergency.
Of course, before I book anything, I also consider how any physical or dietary restrictions can be accommodated.
I also keep copies of things on my phone that I may need:
- Photos of all my prescriptions
- Contact information for my doctor
- Any allergens or crucial medical history
- Critical care paperwork
- Emergency contact information
When in need, a friend indeed
Finally, if I am traveling with friends over an extended period, I have a conversation with at least one of them so they can access all the information on my phone. It doesn’t mean I have to disclose my status to anyone completely; I'm just ensuring that someone can get to the documents if I can't.
It sounds like a lot of preparation, but I've learned firsthand what it means to be without my resources. I hope all of you are safe and traveling well this year.
Will you get a flu shot this year?