Advice on HIV medication for travellers stranded by air travel ban

Keith Alcorn
Published: 20 April 2010

Travel disruption caused by the cloud of volcanic ash over northern Europe may continue for some days, and is presenting problems for people with HIV who are stranded and running out of antiretroviral drugs.

There are a number of options for people running out of medication, depending on where you are. In all cases it is very important to provide as much documentation as possible in order to limit the cost to you.

People with HIV who are stranded in the United Kingdom and running out of HIV medication can approach HIV clinics in the UK for medication, but may be charged at the discretion of the clinic. Whether an individual is charged will depend on their country of residence. (Find a clinic using our database of services).

If you are from a country in the European Economic Area (European Union plus Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Norway and Iceland) you will not be charged if you can produce your European Health Insurance card. If you cannot produce your card you will be charged and issued with a receipt, and you can claim the cost when you return home. If you do not have this card you can obtain one from your country's embassy in the United Kingdom, usually within 24 hours.

If you are from a country outside the EEA with a reciprocal health agreement with the United Kingdom you will not be charged if you can show your passport. (You can see a list of countries with reciprocal agreements here).

If your country of residence does not have a reciprocal health agreement with the UK you will be charged.

In London a number of National Health Service HIV clinics are issuing medication.

At the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital for example, individuals needing medication can obtain an appointment with an HIV doctor and will receive a prescription for two weeks’ worth of medication.

Policies may vary at other clinics, and British HIV Association chairman Dr Ian Williams is writing to all HIV doctors in the UK to ask them to be flexible if approached by patients who are not registered at their clinic.

In addition to the cost of drugs, some clinics may charge a fee for the consultation with a doctor.

People with HIV from the UK who are stranded overseas can approach local HIV clinics or support organisations for help. You can search for organisations and clinics by country here.

What you pay will depend on where you are. If you have the European Health Insurance card you can use this throughout the European Economic Area to obtain whatever is freely available through the local health system. You will have to pay any local costs that would be normally met by local residents from their own pockets or health insurance, such as co-payments on medicines.

A similar situation applies for countries with reciprocal health agreements. You can check the list and find out what is freely available here and find general advice for British citizens on health care abroad here.

Your clinic in the UK should be able to provide a letter by email or fax detailing what treatment you are receiving and what drugs you need - in particular the correct dosages. However you should be aware that many HIV doctors may be away from their offices this week, attending the British HIV Association annual conference. If you do not have contact details for other staff at your HIV clinic, you can find them here.

An NHS prescription is not valid overseas and you may need to obtain an appointment with a doctor in order to get a prescription, but this will not be the case in all countries. In some countries it is possible to buy antiretrovirals without a prescription from a pharmacy.

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.