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Overview of HIV in Thailand

HIV is probably one of the deadliest diseases one can get. It is not treatable even with modern drugs and technology. Even worse, it is necessary to take prescribed medication for life. If not, the disease progresses and drastically decreases life expectancy. Here’s what you need to know about HIV in Thailand.

Currently, about 560,000 people are living with HIV in Thailand, making it one of the regions with the highest prevalence of HIV. Even though the epidemic is declining, the condition persists among key affected populations, particularly among young people.

This Pacific Prime Thailand article will discuss where and how travelers and expats living in Thailand might get exposed to the virus, what their treatment options are, and how to protect themselves from contracting HIV in Thailand.

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What is HIV/AIDS?

HIV is short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It attacks the body’s immune system and lowers the infected person’s ability to fight other diseases, making him or her significantly more vulnerable to developing infections and complications that a normal, healthy person would typically be able to fight off on their own/with medication.

HIV can be transmitted only in three ways:

  • Through blood
  • Through sexual contact (including oral sex)
  • During labor, when the mother transmits the virus to the child (assuming the mother did not take special drugs to prevent transmission to the child)

One thing to note here is that HIV may not show any symptoms for up to 10-12 years. The virus carrier may not even be aware that he or she has it, and end up infecting their sexual partners unknowingly for many years.

HIV infection can only be diagnosed with HIV-specific blood tests to check for the presence of antibodies. It should be performed at least 3 months after the potential infection as the rate for each individual to produce antibodies varies. Premature testing will generate a false-negative result.

HIV Treatment

HIV is incurable, but effective treatment is available with modern medicine. Treatment consists of taking antiretroviral drugs (ARV) that reduce the amount of virus in the blood. Such viral suppression allows HIV patients to live long and healthy lives.

A patient taking medication can lead a normal life and engage in sexual intercourse, but only with the use of a condom. A good quality condom, used from the beginning to the end of sexual contact, protects his/her partner against infection with almost 100 percent effectiveness.


AIDS is the late stage of HIV infection, which is revealed after many years of its carrier. Therefore, it is not a separate virus. It refers to the most advanced stage of the disease in which the immune system is almost completely devastated. The patient suffers from infections (e.g. pneumonia, which for HIV carriers can be fatal) more often than healthy people.

Almost every case of HIV will sooner or later lead to the development of AIDS. It can happen within a few years without treatment, and even longer in the case of early antiretroviral therapy. According to today’s state of research, AIDS is an incurable disease that ultimately leads to death.

HIV in Thailand

Currently, 94% of people living with HIV in Thailand are aware of their condition. In addition, AIDS-related deaths fell by almost two-thirds, while new infections have fallen by 58% since 2020. The government’s effort in controlling the disease is significantly impactful as reflected.

Thai citizens have free access to HIV tests, screenings, and drugs. Tourists and expats alike should seek help in private hospitals, where they can communicate in English with medical staff.

Thailand is on track to meet and exceed the 2025 95% testing and treatment targets. To do so, it must reach those still not accessing HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care services,” said UNAIDS Country Director for Thailand, Patchara Benjarattanaporn.

HIV and AIDS are huge topics in Thailand. The costs of treatments and testing are not overly expensive, as many of the drugs are made locally. Thailand’s government is fighting to eliminate the disease, and they do all that they can in the public healthcare sphere to help minimize it.

Unless you are on a working visa, HIV treatment for foreigners in Thailand is not free and you will have to wait to get both tested and treated for HIV in public hospitals.

Insurance Options for HIV-positive Expats in Thailand

As a general rule, international insurers won’t offer coverage for HIV/AIDS-related treatment to someone who has already been tested HIV-positive. Similar to other Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs), HIV is normally outrightly excluded from coverage in most health insurance plans.

However, some insurers may exclude it only if it was transmitted through sex but will cover you if it was contracted through other means (e.g., blood transfusion), and only if you got infected while enrolled in your current insurance plan. It is crucial to study the policy regarding coverage areas.

Even if that’s the case, this particular coverage usually comes with a long waiting period, meaning a long post-enrollment period must pass before you can use the benefits associated with it.

Travel Insurance: AIDS and HIV

When it comes to HIV and travel insurance, it’s important to remember that such plans don’t cover medical costs related to pre-existing conditions, including HIV/AIDS.

That said, it is still important to make sure that your travel policy covers every eventuality such as repatriation, trip cancellation, medical evacuation, accidental loss or damage of personal possessions, loss or theft of money, and other travel-related mishaps.

How to Reduce the Risk of Getting HIV in Thailand

There are a few precautions you can take to reduce your risk of contracting HIV in Thailand. Consider the following:

  • Get tested and know your partner’s status. HIV tests are readily available at public hospitals and clinics in Thailand. The result can help you both take the necessary steps to avoid spreading it further, such as by undertaking antiretroviral therapy (ART) to minimize the viral load in one’s body.
  • Practice safe sex. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.
  • Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with HIV (whose infection is not well controlled) or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD).
  • Consider pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is an HIV prevention medication for people who are or might be at risk of contracting it.
  • Be careful with injections. Injecting drugs/ medical injections through non-sterile equipment also increases the risk of contracting HIV.

While you can’t always predict what will happen, knowing the risks and ways to reduce the chances of contracting HIV is a good start. And while caring for your own health is the top priority, our team at Pacific Prime Thailand can help simplify health insurance and medical matters for you.

Whether you have more questions about travel insurance and HIV or would like to secure an expat health insurance plan, we are here to assist you in choosing the medical plan best suited to your needs. Contact us for impartial advice or a free plan comparison and quote today.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is HIV common in Thailand?

It is estimated that 560,000 people are living with HIV, according to statistics recorded up to 2022. The number accounts for about 1% of the total population. Thailand has seen declining numbers in the number of cases, through making diagnoses and treatments readily available publicly.

Is Thailand a high-risk region for HIV?

Thailand is one of the high-risk regions for HIV. There are rising cases of HIV among young people. The disease is usually spread through four channels, namely female and male sex workers, drug injections, and men-to-men unprotected sex.

What are the treatments for HIV in Thailand?

Thailand uses the universal treatment ART for all HIV patients. Around 81% of HIV patients have their condition controlled under ART in Thailand. As HIV medications are locally produced, they are affordable for most people.

Eric is an experienced content writer specializing in writing creative copies of marketing materials including social media posts, advertisements, landing pages, and video scripts.

Since joining Pacific Prime, Eric was exposed to a new world of insurance. Having learned about insurance products extensively, he has taken joy and satisfaction in helping individuals and businesses manage risks and protect themselves against financial loss through the power of words.

Although born and raised in Hong Kong, he spent a quarter of his life living and studying in the UK. He believes his multicultural experience is a great asset in understanding the needs and wants of expats and globe-trotters.

Eric’s strengths lie in his strong research, analytical, and communication skills, obtained through his BA in Linguistics from the University of York and MSc in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University of Bristol.

Outside of work, he enjoys some me-time gaming and reading on his own, occasionally going absolutely mental on a night out with friends.
Eric Chung