Employers that send staff overseas need to be aware of challenges surrounding HIV/AIDS

World AIDS Day, 1 December 2019

HIV continues to affect many people daily. In 2018, approximately 37.9 million people across the globe were reported as living with HIV/AIDS, and there were an estimated 1.7 million individuals worldwide who became newly infected with HIV in 2018.

There are many parts of the world where HIV/AIDS can be rife, including those that are popular places to develop business, and it’s important that employers are aware, says Towergate Health & Protection.

A global issue

For example, India has the third largest HIV epidemic in the world. Recently there has been renewed concern that the annual global number of new infections among adults has remained static and therefore not decreasing. In September 2018, China announced that the number of citizens living with HIV/AIDS increased by 14%, with more than 820,000 people infected. By the second quarter of 2018, there were reports of 40,000 new cases. While there has been progress in combatting viral transmissions in some regions, it’s important employers who have staff travelling to locations where the disease is rife are knowledgeable of the situation.

Plan ahead

Only a few countries ban travel for people living with HIV, but some have entry restrictions for longer stays, especially when residency and work permits are involved. Travel restrictions for people with HIV can change quickly and so extra caution should be taken. For employers planning to send staff on an overseas assignment it’s strongly advised that they always check the rules of a location, and  particularly any regulations that affect people living with HIV, before allowing staff to travel. For example, in The United Arab Emirates a HIV test is required for a work visa to be granted.

Sarah Dennis, head of international at Towergate Health & Protection said: “It’s important to remember that there have been huge developments in recent years in the insurance industry and businesses need to be aware that a lot of international healthcare policies include cover for HIV/AIDS. Businesses have a responsibility to make sure that staff are aware where epidemics are rife and to make sure appropriate cover for staff is always in place.”


Some countries with the highest rates of HIV infection have continued to take several measures towards reducing the rate of infection among populations. Awareness programmes to educate the public about HIV/AIDS and prevention remains the most important method to stop the spread of the disease. Nearly a million people still die every year from the virus because they don’t know they have HIV and are not on treatment, or they commence treatment too late. Despite challenges, new global efforts have meant that the number of people receiving HIV treatment has increased dramatically in recent years, particularly in resource-poor countries. There has been tremendous progress made in controlling the number of HIV patients, and HIV/AIDS treatment is becoming a reality worldwide with 19.5 million people now receiving life-saving treatment in the form of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). It’s important to be mindful that the disease can be spread through sexual intercourse, sharing needles, syringes and other injecting equipment, from mother to baby before or during birth or by breastfeeding and blood transfusions. Though today contracting the disease through blood transfusions is very rare in the UK, it is still a problem in developing countries.

World AIDS Day was created to raise awareness about HIV and the resulting AIDS epidemics, this year’s theme – Communities make the difference – is a reminder that the workplace continues to play an important role in the AIDS response.