ABC Guide to Travel Health - Vaccines, Vaccinations

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Infection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) results in progressive damage to the immune system that leads to life-threatening infectious and non-infectious complications. Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) represents the late clinical stages of HIV infection.28

Transmission is from person-to-person by contact with infected body fluids. For example, the infection can be spread through sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products and use of contaminated needles or syringes for injections. Transmission may also occur from a mother to her unborn baby. HIV is NOT transmitted through casual contact, food, contact with inanimate objects or via mosquitoes or other insects.

Geographic distribution28
AIDS and HIV infection occur worldwide. Comprehensive surveillance systems are lacking in many countries, so the true number of cases is likely to be far greater than the numbers officially reported, particularly from resource-poor nations.

See HIV/AIDS distribution map

Risk for Travellers28
The risk of HIV infection for international travellers is generally low. Factors to consider when assessing the risk include the extent of direct contact with blood or secretions and of sexual contact with potentially infected persons. In addition the blood supply in low income countries might not be adequately screened.

Precautions and prevention28

  • There is no vaccine to prevent HIV infection.
  • Adopt safe sexual practices. Male or female condoms, when properly used, have proved to be effective in preventing the transmission of HIV.
  • Avoid the use of any potentially contaminated instruments for injection or other skin-piercing activities, such as acupuncture, piercing or tattooing. If possible avoid blood transfusion in countries where the blood supply may not be adequately screened.
  • Some countries have adopted entry and visa restrictions for people with HIV/AIDS. People with HIV should seek health pre travel health advice.  

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