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HIV, AIDS and Travel

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a severe, often life-threatening, illness caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). The incubation period for AIDS is very long and variable, ranging from a few months to many years. Some individuals infected with HIV have remained asymptomatic for more than a decade. Currently, there is no vaccine to protect against infection with HIV. Although there is no cure for AIDS, treatment for HIV infection and prophylaxis for several opportunistic diseases that characterize AIDS are available as a result of intense international research efforts.

HIV infection and AIDS have been reported worldwide. Comprehensive surveillance systems are lacking in many countries, so that the true number of cases is likely to be far greater than the numbers officially reported from some, particularly the non-industrialized nations. The number of persons infected with HIV is estimated by the World Health Organization to be in the range of 13-14 million worldwide. Because HIV infection and AIDS are globally distributed, the risk to international travelers is determined less by their geographic destination than by their individual behavior.

HIV infection is preventable. HIV is transmitted through sexual intercourse, needlesharing, by medical use of blood or blood components, and perinatally from an infected woman. HIV is not transmitted through casual contact; air, food, or water routes; contact with inanimate objects; or thorough mosquitoes or other arthropod vectors. The use of any public conveyance (e.g., airplane, automobile, boat, bus, train) by persons AIDS or HIV infection does not pose a risk of infection for the crew other passengers.

Excerpted from:U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HHS Publication No. (CDC) 94-8280. June, 1994. pgs. 66-67.

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