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HIV/Aids




"You can find condoms almost anywhere in the world, but you might not find them when you need them if you were in a club or out of the resort or trekking or whatever. It would be safer to bring your own condoms."
Dr Philippe Mayaud, clinical senior lecturer at the clinical research unit at the Department of Infectious and Tropical Diseases at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
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What is HIV/Aids?
HIV is the cause of one of the most devastating epidemics ever to hit sub-Saharan Africa, but people with the infection can be encountered across the world. People who carry HIV may appear completely healthy.

However, the virus can be found in their blood and sexual fluids - and the most common way it spreads is when you have sex, either heterosexual or homosexual, with an infected person.

Although modern medication can keep an HIV-infected person from becoming ill with Aids for many years, there is currently no cure, and no vaccine, for the virus.


How can I protect myself?
Practising safe sex is vital to avoid the spread of Aids/HIV - male and female condoms are an important piece of luggage for the traveller intending to have sex at home or overseas.

Although condoms are available in most places in the world, experts advise travellers to stock up before they leave the UK.

Waiting to buy condoms in the travel resorts could result in problems if the condoms are of a poor standard or have been stored incorrectly in tropical conditions.


Where will I have the greatest risk?
In the 21 years since Aids - Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome - first appeared it has killed over 24 million people across the globe.

Another 40 million people are currently infected with HIV, but are not yet sick with Aids.

Sub-Saharan Africa is home to two-thirds of all HIV positive cases and South Africa has the largest number of people living with HIV and Aids in the world.

Parts of the Asia and the former Soviet Union are currently undergoing great Aids problems.

But travellers are just as likely to catch HIV through a sexual encounter in the UK.


How can I lessen my risk?
Obviously the most important ways of avoiding Aids are using a barrier method for sex; not sharing used needles and infected blood.

Choosing a sexual partner carefully and avoiding multiple partners can also lessen the risks.

But travellers should be aware that a casual pick-up in a nightclub is no less likely to be a carrier than a sex worker.


What do I do if I am raped?
Anyone who is raped abroad should ensure they get immediate specialist care. Forced sex particularly where the person is cut carries a greater risk of HIV transmission.

Antibiotics and anti-retroviral drugs should be started as soon as possible, particularly where there is a suspicion that the rapist might be an HIV carrier.


What if I get hurt on holiday?
A blood transfusion in a country which does not screen its blood is a high risk. But the risks do have to be weighed against the risk of death if a vital transfusion is delayed or avoided. Travellers can always take sterile medical kits abroad with them in case of emergencies.

This information is for guidance only, and the immunisations recommended may vary widely depending on the nature of your visit. Consult your doctor for advice.

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