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About AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Diseases

Policy Information:

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have published that HIV-related illness and death now have the greatest impact on young people, and “because HIV infection and AIDS are globally distributed, the risk to international travelers is determined less by their geographic destination than by their sexual and drug using behaviors.”

For these reasons, study abroad program administrators should consider warning students about such behaviors including:

Sexual intercourse (heterosexual or homosexual) with an infected person;

Using or allowing the use of contaminated, unsterilized syringes or needles for any injections or other skin-piercing procedures including acupuncture use of illicit drugs, steroid or vitamin injections, medical/dental procedures, ear or body piercing, or tattooing; using infected blood, blood components, or clotting factor concentrates. (

Administrators may wish to find physicians, hospitals, and dentists abroad that have standards similar to those in the United States (disposable gloves, screened blood, sterilized needles, etc.) that they can recommend to their students. If the quality of medical and other related care abroad is at all questionable, administrators may further suggest that students:

Avoid or postpone any blood transfusion unless it is absolutely necessary if they are injured or ill.

Try to ensure that screened blood is used if they do need blood.

Avoid injections unless absolutely necessary since in some countries even disposable equipment is reused. In some severe cases, a situation may warrant that administrators advise students to purchase their own needles and syringes and bring them to the hospital with them. (

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommend that diabetics or other persons who take frequent injections carry a supply of syringes and needles “sufficient to last their stay abroad." ( They should also have with them a prescription (if possible translated into the language of the host country) to avoid violating local laws about carrying such supplies without a prescription.

Regarding sexual behavior abroad, administrators could inform students that condoms “have been shown to be highly effective in preventing the transmission of HIV and other STDS if used correctly and consistently.” As the manufacture and storage of condoms in some countries may be questionable, students may consider taking their own supply of condoms if they plan to be sexually active while abroad.

Like other diseases, AIDS may restrict a person’s right of entry into certain countries. Administrators could contact the U.S. embassy or consulate in host countries to find out about specific entry requirements, or requirements regarding carrying certain medications.

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