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Adjusting ARV intake according to time zones

An HIV-positive Filipino wants to know if he can adjusts his schedule of taking ARVs when he is traveling to a country with a different time zone, and Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon provides needed information on this.

Dr. Jose Narciso Melchor Sescon – president of the AIDS Society of the Philippines and current Chief of Clinics of Sta. Ana Hospital – answers all your HIV-related inquiries. For all your questions, email or

Dear Doc,

I am traveling abroad, and there will be time differences between the countries. Is it possible to adjust the time of my taking my ARVs so I don’t have to wake up at ungodly hours just to do so?

Mr. Time Conscious

Traveling abroad, especially in countries on time zones where there are time differences (versus the country of origin) for more than six hours to 24 hours, is indeed a challenge. This is even more so among clients taking ARVs that is not a single pill or fixed dose combination. After all, at all times, we want to have good compliance. Of course, we don’t encourage you waking up at “ungodly hours” to take ARV (that is, using your home-based time) in the middle of the night. The body zones needs to be adjusted accordingly.

Here are some helpful tips for those who are traveling fore more than 15 days (two weeks):

  1. Before leaving your home-based country, check your canisters or pillboxes and properly compute to ensure that you have ARV stocks during the entire trip. Allow for a two-week extra supply, just in case.
  2. ARVs should be checked in your luggage to avoid being asked questions about these medications. Preferably, have it distributed and stored in safe pillboxes. Should you wish to have it handcarried, be ready with your doctors’ prescriptions and/or medical certificate to explain your condition. Of course, the risk of HIV disclosure is at stake on this. So it may be best to handcarry only enough pills during the travel time.
  3. Be mindful of the time zone of the country you are going to. Set your body clock to that time – meaning, if it is evening, sleep; if it is day time, wake up do some activities.
  4. Now, as to the timing of ARV, it is easier if the time difference is six hours or less, since one can easily adjust flexibly, than if it is more than six hours (say, 24 hours).  Here, incremental adjustments of ARV intake could be done with two to four hours until the adjusted local time is desired. This could be achieved in matters of three days. Remember, with ARV intake, we want to sustain the adequate or optimum therapeutic effects of the medications the entire time.
  5. Drink lots of water to avoid dehydration before traveling, including while on flights.
  6. Eat meals according to the local time zone of destination.


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