International travel is associated with an increased risk of enteric, vector-borne, sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections. These risks are even higher among immunocompromised people, such as those with HIV infection. We conducted a study to determine HIV-positive people's travel patterns and risk behaviours while abroad.
We conducted an anonymous survey of HIV-positive people attending an HIV clinic in a tertiary care hospital in Toronto about their travel activities and pretravel precautions as well as their burden of illness and risk exposure during travel. We compared the characteristics of respondents who had travelled outside Canada and the United States (international travellers) with those of respondents who had not travelled internationally.
Of 290 HIV-positive people who participated in the study, 133 (45.9%) indicated that they had travelled internationally in the 5 years before the survey. These people were predominantly men (93.2%) and well educated (60.0% had a university level education), and they had travelled mostly for personal reasons (89.5%) on trips that lasted 3.6 weeks on average. Only 58 (43.6%) sought health advice before travelling, and only 17 (12.8%) sought advice from a travel clinic. Five (3.8%) had received live vaccines before travel, and 9 (6.8%) had taken malaria chemoprophylaxis. Of the 119 international travellers who were taking antiretroviral therapy; 35 (29.4%) reported either discontinuing their medications or being poorly compliant with the therapy while travelling. Thirty-one (23.3%) of the 133 international travellers reported having had casual sexual activity with new partners while travelling, and only 18 (58.1%) of them reported always using a condom. Twenty-one (15.8%) of the 133 reported having had risky exposure to sharps. Twenty-four (18.0%) said they had become ill enough while travelling to require medical attention.
Only one-fifth of HIV-positive people surveyed who travelled internationally sought advice from a health professional before their trip. Their travel was associated with poor adherence to antiretroviral therapy, risky sexual practices and risky exposure to sharps.
Cites: N Engl J Med. 2000 Jun 8;342(23):1716-2510841875