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International AIDS Society HIV Conference gets underway

This weekend sees the sixth International AIDS Society HIV Conference get underway in Rome. The conference runs from Sunday 17th to Wednesday 20th July and will see thousands congregate for what is the world’s largest open scientific conference on HIV and AIDS.

It’s a hugely important event. The world’s leading scientists, clinicians, public health experts and community leaders meet to examine the latest developments in HIV-related research and explore how scientific advances can make a positive difference in the global response to HIV and AIDS. It also recognises the work of experts from around the world who have made an outstanding contribution to the ongoing research into the disease.

As travel insurers, we come across all kinds of different medical conditions on a daily basis. But few people know how important HIV was in the development of World First. It helped shaped who we are and set us on the path to becoming one of the fairest and most thorough providers of medical travel insurance out there.

So what’s the story? And how did we make travel insurance history?

World First started as a small family business in 1973. Back then, HIV and AIDS was unknown and unheard of. In fact it was not discovered until 1981. But the disease spread rapidly, all across the world. Including the UK.

When a friend of the family business was diagnosed with HIV, it changed the outlook of World First forever. The friend would often take holidays with one or more of the family. But it quickly became apparent that, were something unexpected to happen, the travelling group would find themselves out of pocket – especially if they tried to seek compensation for a holiday that had to be cancelled at the last minute.


Because HIV was listed as an exclusion in all travel insurance policies. No one covered it. Step forward World First. Suzanne Rothwell, the wife of World First’s founding member, started a battle with the world’s underwriters to clear a policy that offered travellers with HIV and AIDS a fairer deal.

It was a battle that lasted ten years.

But, in 1991, the new policy was cleared and World First became the first travel insurers in the UK to offer travel insurance to people living with HIV. It’s something we’re extremely proud of and, to this day, we continue to offer comprehensive policies for those with pre-existing medical conditions. And we do it at a price that’s fair. In some cases, we’ve saved travellers hundreds of pounds. In others, we’ve enabled them to travel when they were running out of options.

We can do the same for you. Find out more about our medical travel insurance.

The International AIDS Society Conference gets underway in Rome on Sunday 17th July. You can find out more about the conference on the official website at

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