Medical Care During Service
In every post where Volunteers serve abroad, the Peace Corps maintains a health unit staffed by one or more health-care providers, called Peace Corps medical officers.
These providers are highly qualified professionals who are all carefully evaluated and credentialed by the Peace Corps. They provide basic medical care to Volunteers, train them on staying healthy, and provide basic medical skills and supplies to do so. Medical officers are the first provider consulted for any medical issues and are on call 24/7 for emergencies.
If a Volunteer becomes ill and the required care exceeds the capacity of the medical program in the country of service, the Peace Corps will transport the Volunteer to an appropriate facility in a nearby country or to the U.S. The Peace Corps assumes the costs of any necessary or appropriate medical and dental treatment provided during Peace Corps service. The quality of medical care at the posts is monitored regularly by the Peace Corps.
Helping you stay healthy
Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive approach to disease. The Peace Corps will provide you with all the necessary vaccinations, medications, and information to stay healthy. Upon your arrival in-country, you will receive a country-specific medical handbook. During training, you will receive a medical kit with supplies to take care of mild illnesses and first aid needs. The contents of the kit are listed below.
You will have physicals at midservice and at the end of your service, and
can be seen by your medical officer on an as needed basis. If you develop a
serious medical problem during your service, the medical officer in your host
country will consult with the Office of Health Services in Washington, D.C., or
a regional medical officer. If it is determined that your condition cannot be
treated in-country, you may be sent out of the country for further evaluation
If you are concerned about the care you are receiving from your medical officer or an in-country provider, contact the Office of Medical Services Quality Nurse Line at [email protected].
Maintaining your health
As a Volunteer, you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk of serious illness or injury. This becomes extremely important in areas where diagnostic and treatment facilities do not meet U.S. standards.
Many illnesses that affect Volunteers worldwide are preventable with regular handwashing, being careful about eating food, and treating drinking water. These gastrointestinal illnesses include food poisoning, giardia, and travelers’ diarrhea. Your medical officer will discuss specific standards for water and food preparation during pre-service training.
Mosquito-borne illness is a risk in tropical areas; some illnesses such as malaria are preventable if you take medication. There is no vaccine for Zika, Chikungunya, and Dengue fever. However, minimizing mosquito bites is possible by applying mosquito repellent, wearing protective clothing, and sleeping under a bednet.
To reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, HIV, and unplanned pregnancy, you should use a condom every time you have sex and adhere to an effective means of birth control. Your medical officer can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs. Contraceptive methods are available without charge from the Peace Corps Medical Officer (PCMO).
It is critical to your health that you receive scheduled immunizations, take the recommended medications, and follow the guidance from your PCMO, who will be responsible for your health for your length of service.
Medications & prescriptions
During service, the Peace Corps will provide all approved medications for you. However, you should bring a three-month supply of any prescription or over-the-counter medication you use on a regular basis, including birth control pills. Although the Peace Corps cannot reimburse you for this three-month supply, we will order refills during your service.
While awaiting shipment—which can take several months—you will be dependent on your own medication supply. Medications supplied will be generic or equivalent to your current medications.
You are encouraged to bring copies of medical prescriptions signed by your physician, which might come in handy if you are questioned in transit about carrying a three-month supply of prescription drugs.
Glasses & contacts
If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will replace them, using the information your doctor in the U.S. provided on the eyeglasses form during your examination.
The Peace Corps Office of Health Services strongly discourages Volunteers from wearing contact lenses. Contact lenses, particularly extended use soft contacts, are associated with a variety of eye infections and other inflammatory problems, which can lead to severe cornea damage and permanent blindness requiring corneal transplantation.
These risks of permanent eye damage are exacerbated in the Peace Corps environment where a Volunteer’s ability to properly clean the lenses is compromised. In addition, if an eye infection occurs, it is virtually impossible to obtain treatment quickly in the Peace Corps setting.
If you decide to go against Peace Corps recommendations and use your contacts occasionally, consider using single use, daily disposable lenses that do not require cleaning.
Your Peace Corps medical kit
The Peace Corps medical officer will provide you with a kit containing basic items to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office.
- First aid handbook
- Ace bandages
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Adhesive tape
- Antacid tablets
- Anti-diarrheal (Imodium)
- Antibiotic ointment
- Antifungal cream
- Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner
- Bismuth Subsalicylate (Pepto-Bismol)
- Butterfly closures
- Calagel anti-itch gel
- Cough lozenges
- Dental floss
- Hydrocortisone cream
- Insect repellent
- Iodine tablets (for water purification)
- Lip balm
- Oral rehydration salts
- Sore throat lozenges
- Sterile eye drops
- Sterile gauze pads
- Thermometer (Temp-a-dots)
Women’s health information
If feminine hygiene products are not available for you to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps will provide them. If you require a specific product, please bring it with you. Many female Volunteers use menstrual cups (The Diva Cup, The Keeper, The Moon Cup, etc.) to avoid potential problems with availability or disposal of feminine hygiene products. Consider bringing one or two menstrual cups with you to use during service.
Pregnancy is treated in the same manner as other Volunteer health conditions that require medical attention. The Peace Corps is responsible for determining the medical risk and the availability of appropriate medical care if the Volunteer chooses to remain in-country. Given the circumstances under which Volunteers live and work in Peace Corps countries, it is rare that the Peace Corps’ medical standards for continued service during pregnancy can be met.
The Peace Corps follows the 2012 U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for screening PAP smears, which recommend women aged 21–29 receive screening PAPs every three years and women aged 30–65 receive screening PAPs every five years. As such, most Volunteers will not receive a PAP during their service.
If you suffer a medical condition that cannot be treated in-country, the Peace Corps will pay to have you transported to another country or the U.S., and will provide all necessary and appropriate care during your medevac. Depending on your condition, you may be able to return to service. Post staff will maintain your belongings and residence while you are on medevac and, in the event that you cannot return to service, will ship your belongings to you.