HIV and moving away from the ‘big smoke’

Moving away from big cities can have positives and drawbacks for people living with HIV. Photo: supplied.

There’s many reasons why you might be considering a move from ‘the big smoke’. Whether it’s a ‘sea-change’ or ‘tree-change’, your motivation might include cost of living, improved housing or rental affordability, and a more relaxed lifestyle.

When you’re living with HIV, moving to a rural or regional area of NSW has both benefits and challenges. A quieter, more laidback lifestyle can be a distinct benefit to your health.

The cost of living might be lower, with more affordable housing available, and food costs might be offset with room for a home garden. Getting away from the distractions (or temptations!) of the city could also be a positive.

If you’re living with HIV, you’ll need to factor in a few extra priorities that may make or break the dream move. Overall, you might need to be more self-sustaining across a range of things like socialising, entertainment and transport. Prepare for a lack of or change in social, medical, economic or transport opportunities after the move.

Being clear in your own mind why you’re moving, will help when you start to doubt or question the move if things don’t match up to your expectations.

What do you hope to gain by the move? What could you lose by moving? Will you miss your support network? Be prepared for less knowledge or understanding about HIV in rural areas. Will you be stepping back into a HIV or LGBTQ+ closet outside the city?

The main issue moving outside a major city like Sydney is access to your HIV-related healthcare team. Living with HIV means you’ll need to consider your options to maintain your relationship with your HIV doctor. What are your options to get your s100 prescriptions and access your HIV medication? You might need to order your HIV medication in advance.

If you have more than one health condition (diabetes, arthritis, hypertension etc) as well as HIV, it’ll be important to know your options to access your health needs for this condition as well. If you’re reliant on public transport, will this put a spanner in the works? Will you need to plan for regular trips back to the city? Will you need to travel further for basic medical services or specialist HIV services?

It might be useful to take a short holiday to your chosen location first, or visit the location at different times throughout the year. You might be able to trial things by housing-sitting for a friend before making the final move.

If you want to brainstorm your options with someone else living with HIV, get in touch with a peer navigator at Positive Life NSW on (02) 8357 8386, 1800 245 677 (freecall in NSW) or

Positive Life NSW is the representative body for all people living with HIV in NSW. To find out more go to

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