Holiholiday!

Organising a holiday can be stressful at the best of times but organising one whilst knowing you live with a long term illness can add extra worries. When I was diagnosed one of the first times I remember feeling actually excluded from something due to my condition was realising that certain countries ban people with HIV from entering their territory. Whilst some are willing to take the risk and have travelled to destinations hiding their status it’s not something I was financially willing to risk. I was more than happy to hear the news during the time of my diagnosis that the USA was to end its 22 year immigration ban.

I’ve been to the USA twice before when I was a lot younger with my family and I’ve been eager to return again, me and my boyfriend had talked about going to San Francisco for some time but we (well me) hadn’t really got enough money together to make it possible until this year. Not only are we visiting San Fran but we’re starting our trip in Vegas and ending in it New York City.

Travel bans aside there’s still a lot to think about when travelling abroad. We take it for granted in this country that we’re entitled to free healthcare, we get sick, we have an accident and we visit the hospital, get better and go home happy with no bills or fees. Unfortunately the risks involved in living with a condition such as HIV, however small, mean that everyday travel insurance won’t provide cover in the most part if I was to become ill abroad. Even if a travel insurance policy doesn’t specifically exclude the condition (and many these days don’t, having realised HIV does not need to be explicitly cited on its own) they will exclude pre-existing medical conditions. So if you’re on treatment, you see a consultant regularly you’re likely to fall out of the cover.

The good news is that many specialist insurers these days provide the cover required, I just bought my policy for this trip for £60, a shame it’s not as cheap as some of the online single trip ones were before my diagnosis but considering the cost of healthcare in the USA I’m seeing it as a bargain should anything (God forbid) happen to me out there. As someone with a professional background in the insurance industry I would recommend that everyone buys travel insurance, especially if you are visiting North America where healthcare costs are ridiculously high! Don’t take a chance on a normal policy, it really is worth paying a little extra for a policy tailored to your needs than running the risk of paying a hospital ‘x’ amount each month for the rest of your life…

The other item that I won’t be without as I head off to the airport in 13 days (!!!) time is a letter from my consultant explaining the medication I have with me is mine and it is necessary, it doesn’t say which condition my tablets are for and I have never had to show anyone in customs. I was so worried the first time I went abroad, more so because I was with family who back then didn’t know I was HIV positive, but if you think about it people carry allsorts of medication for a variety of conditions and how often at an airport do you see customs or security staff going through it all or asking any questions? I do still have a bit of a ‘I hope I don’t need to get the letter out’ moment whenever I’m in an airport but I think that’s down to wanting to get through to the airport bar quicker haha! I also travel with a letter detailing my condition, treatment and latest results in the eventuality I end up in hospital abroad so the doctors there can treat me efficiently and are fully aware of the facts, this letter is purely for these circumstances only and shouldn’t be (or ever need to be) shown to anyone in airport security.

So with all of that sorted I am starting to relax about the thought of being in Las Vegas this time in two weeks, tell a lie: I am starting to panic and worry as everybody else does, I need to buy holiday clothes, sort my dollars and then pack!

There are some useful links here if you want some information on anything I’ve written about:

http://www.aidsmap.com/Countries-and-their-entry-restrictions/page/1255072/

http://www.tht.org.uk/myhiv/Your-rights/Travel/Travel-insurance/Insurance-companies/

I’d note that I have always used Freedom and found their quotes reasonable and competitive, they’re also underwritten by Axa who are a global insurance firm and they have offices that span the globe so it’s easy for their staff to deal with claims etc. When I’ve travelled to Europe it’s been about £20 and a week’s ski trip with winter sports cover was £48, as I mentioned above I’m paying £60 for 16days in the USA. I’m not endorsing or advertising for them just giving my own personal opinion!

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