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Peace Corps Volunteer
2 years, 3 months
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Up to 12 months
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3-6 months
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Medical Care During Service

All Volunteers receive necessary and appropriate health care during service. The Peace Corps assumes the costs of any necessary or appropriate medical and dental treatment provided during Peace Corps service.

Peace Corps medical officers (PCMOs)

In every post where Volunteers serve abroad, the Peace Corps maintains a health unit staffed by two or more healthcare providers, called Peace Corps medical officers (PCMOs). These healthcare providers, who are often local, are highly qualified professionals who are all carefully evaluated and credentialed by the Peace Corps. They provide direct primary medical care, train Volunteers on staying healthy, teach basic medical skills, and provide medications and supplies to support Volunteer health.

PCMOs are the first providers consulted for any medical issues and are on call 24/7 for emergencies.

The quality of medical care at the posts is monitored regularly by the Peace Corps Office of Health Services.

During the service period, routine physical examination and necessary lab tests are performed at mid-service and end of service. Throughout service you will have access to the PCMO on an as-needed basis for acute and chronic disease care.

If you develop a serious medical problem during your service, the PCMO in your host country may consult with a regional medical officer (a senior physician assigned to a specific geographic region), and/or a clinician in the Office of Health Services in Washington, D.C. (includes nurse practitioners, physicians, clinical psychologists, dentists, and a pharmacist).

If you become ill or are injured and the required care exceeds the capacity of the medical services in your country of service, the Peace Corps will transport you to an appropriate facility at a regional medical hub, higher resourced country, or to the U.S.

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Video: Health coverage and primary care during service

Staying healthy: Preventive measures

Peace Corps medical programs emphasize the preventive approach to disease. This is extremely important as Peace Corps Volunteers serve in regions of the world where sanitation and medical facilities often are not at U.S standards and you may be exposed to infectious agents rarely encountered in the U.S.

Support throughout your service

Upon your arrival in-country, you will participate in eight to 12 weeks of extensive pre-service training. Much of this training focuses on illness prevention, recognition and management of common conditions, and includes basic first aid skills. Your PCMO will orient you to the most common illnesses and injuries in your country of service and educate you on resources to promote your health during service. Additionally, you will receive a country-specific medical handbook and medical kit with supplies to address mild illnesses and injuries.

Illness prevention

As a Volunteer you must accept considerable responsibility for your own health. Proper precautions will significantly reduce your risk for serious injury and illness. Your adherence to prevention is critical because Peace Corps Volunteers serve in regions where the diagnostic and treatment facilities often do not meet U.S. standards.

The Peace Corps will provide education; supplies (bed nets, insect repellant, water filters, etc.); preventive medications such as malaria prophylaxis (mandatory in endemic areas); and all necessary vaccinations during service. Please note that vaccinations are mandatory.

Many illnesses that affect Volunteers worldwide are preventable with regular handwashing, being careful about eating food, wearing protective footwear and other clothing, and by treating drinking water. Common gastrointestinal illnesses include food poisoning, infection with bacteria, viruses, giardia and other parasites, and travelers’ diarrhea. Your PCMO 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. Peace Corps supplies malaria prevention medication and while you will have a choice of options, compliance with a malaria prevention medication is mandatory. There is no vaccine for most mosquito-borne illnesses so minimizing mosquito bites by consistently applying mosquito repellent, wearing protective clothing regularly treated with insecticide (permethrin), and sleeping under an insecticide treated bed net, is critical.

To reduce sexually transmitted infections (STIs), using a condom every time you have sex is recommended. Condoms are provided free of charge by the health unit. You will have the opportunity for STI screening at your mid-service and close of service physicals. Any additional requests for STI screening will be evaluated based upon risk and on a case-by-case basis. HIV pre- and post-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP and PEP) will be provided if medically appropriate. Your PCMO can help you decide on the most appropriate method to suit your individual needs.

To reduce the risk of infections with respiratory pathogens during peak transmission times, hand hygiene, physical distancing, and use of masks in public settings are critically important.

It is essential to your health that you receive all mandatory immunizations and take all required medications. Equally important is that you follow the guidance from your PCMO, who will be your primary care provider during your Peace Corps service. Non-compliance with their instructions and lack of adherence to required medications, as well as seeking unauthorized care outside of the Peace Corps health system, can result in termination of your Peace Corps service.

Cancer screenings

The Peace Corps follows the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for cancer screening and will provide these screenings if indicated. Please see: cervical cancer, breast cancer and colorectal cancer screening.

In countries where there are no Peace Corps-approved facilities and providers, at risk invitees will be notified prior to service, and can either request to forego the screen during Peace Corps service or can work with their placement officer to secure an invitation to a country where recommended screening is available.

Behavioral health: Prevention

Behavioral health is the impact of behavior on emotional well-being and physical health. It includes such factors as your work engagement, social connections, wellness routine, good nutrition, sleep, and regular exercise. These factors contribute to your sense of purpose and your emotional and physical health.

Behavioral health and well-being are essential to your adjustment and success. The foundation of Volunteer behavioral health is self-awareness and self-management, an approach consistent with preventive care and the promotion of well-being.

Peace Corps provides resources to enhance your ability to meet new challenges and stay healthy, with an emphasis on evidence-based resilience skill building and positive coping strategies.

Volunteers are encouraged to establish and build a healthy interpersonal support network including friends and family, host families, fellow Volunteers, and Peace Corps staff. A selection of multimedia e-resources are available to you 24/7, including videos, apps, podcasts, and short readings. These resources can support your behavioral health and help address adjustment challenges.

Your PCMO will be the primary point of contact for emotional support as you may need to address concerns related to stress and adjustment throughout your service.

PCMOs can also guide you to other sources of support (e.g., post staff, peer support network) and provide referrals for specialized behavioral health care, if appropriate. The majority of Volunteer behavioral health concerns can be managed in-country with this individualized approach.

Behavioral health: Care

If you require behavioral health treatment during service, a plan of care is developed in consultation with the PCMO and periodically amended based on a range of factors. These include, but are not limited to, the severity of the concerns, your response to treatment and preference for care, and the unique conditions of your environment.

The PCMO may refer you for additional evaluation and/or behavioral health care if it is clinically indicated. Typically, short-term therapy provides a Volunteer with the needed coping skills to restore well-being and complete their Peace Corps assignment.

When a Volunteer’s behavioral health needs exceed the availability and resources in-country, a medical evacuation to the U.S. for intensive treatment may be necessary.

Psychiatric care

Psychiatric care is extremely limited in service, and there are a range of clinical and logistical factors that influence the ability to start, stop, or adjust psychiatric medications. If a Volunteer is interested in starting, stopping, or adjusting psychiatric medications during service, this request must be communicated by you to your PCMO and a consultation with a psychiatric specialist located at Peace Corps headquarters may be arranged. Volunteers are not permitted to continue to engage with their home of record (HOR) prescriber.

Psychiatric capabilities are highly dependent on clinical factors such as the severity of your current symptoms, safety considerations when prescribing psychiatric medications in an austere environment, and medical comorbidities that may contribute to adverse outcomes. In addition, logistical factors such as medication availability and legal authorization of certain psychiatric medications vary significantly in host countries. This means that medications commonly prescribed in the U.S. may be unavailable in some countries, and ordering from reliable supply chains may take several weeks. If there are safety concerns, it is typically recommended for the Volunteer to be medically evacuated for comprehensive evaluation and psychiatric care in the U.S.

Volunteers taking Peace Corps approved psychiatric medications can (and do) serve successfully, and proactively addressing any concerns with your prescriber before service is highly recommended.

Dental care

Volunteers serving in 2-year assignments will receive a dental exam and cleaning at mid-service and again at close of service. Volunteers in shorter-term assignments will receive a dental exam at the close of service. Routine dental exams are not provided every six months.

Dental treatment for urgent and emergent issues will be treated in-country if the resources are available. If services are unavailable, a medical evacuation to another country may be necessary.

Medications and prescriptions

During service, the Peace Corps will provide all medications that are FDA-approved for treatment of your medical conditions. However, procurement of the medications will take time, so you must bring a three-month supply of any prescription and/or over-the-counter medications you use. Once you arrive in-country, your PCMOs will review your medical history and medication needs, and they will order your medication(s). During this time, you will be dependent upon the medication you brought with you. Although you will not be reimbursed for this three-month supply, the Peace Corps will order refills during your service. Please note that medications supplied during service will typically be generic or therapeutically equivalent to your current medications.

Controlled substances: If you have been medically cleared by Peace Corps to take a controlled substance medication for a chronic medical condition, such as ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder), you must carry a signed letter from your prescribing medical provider documenting your use.

The letter must include your name, the name of the medication, quantity, instructions for use, and the condition being treated. You should have this letter easily accessible with you throughout your travel to your Peace Corps country and when traveling in-country with your medication. Be sure to provide a copy of the letter to your PCMO upon arrival in your country of service.

Injectable medications: Volunteers who use injectable medications, particularly refrigerated ones, may require sites with electricity and a refrigerator. If medically cleared to serve on an injectable medication, you must carry a letter from your prescribing medical provider. The letter must include your name, the name of the medication, quantity, instructions for use, and the condition being treated. You should have this letter easily accessible with you throughout your travel to your Peace Corps country and when traveling in-country with your medication. You will need to bring a 3-month supply of the medication in a cold chain storage transport box, equipped with a thermometer, that meets airline carry-on luggage requirements.

Supplements and elective/cosmetic medications: Unless prescribed for a laboratory-confirmed deficiency and cleared by Peace Corps Office of Health Services, you will not be provided medications that the Peace Corps considers elective or cosmetic (such as for hair loss or facial wrinkles). You will not be provided homeopathic or naturopathic remedies, dietary supplements, long-term probiotics or vitamin treatments other than multivitamins.

All substances, medications, supplements, or herbal preparations—including those available over the counter—must be approved by your PCMOs to ensure Volunteer safety and prevent unsafe drug combinations. When supplements and herbal preparations are manufactured locally, these may be inaccurately labeled, have uncertain quality, and may contain harmful contaminants. Non-compliance can result in termination of your Peace Corps service.

Please note that CBD- and kratom-containing products are not permitted in Peace Corps host countries.

Allergies and life-threatening conditions

If you have been medically cleared to serve with an epinephrine injection device, you are required to have two unexpired devices with you at all times during your service.

The Peace Corps does not provide allergy immunotherapy injections during service.

Glasses and contacts

If you wear eyeglasses, bring two pairs (of the current prescription) with you. If a pair breaks, the Peace Corps will repair them if possible or will replace them, using the information your doctor in the U.S. provided on the Eyeglasses Form during your examination. Please note that there are limitations on cost and types of frames and lenses.

Contact lens use is generally prohibited but will be considered on a case-by-case basis if vision is not satisfactorily corrected with glasses. Contacts reduce the oxygen supply to the cornea, and even minor scratches from placing and removing them, along with environmental exposures such as contaminated water, can lead to infections which may cause permanent eye damage and vision loss.

Durable medical equipment

If you have been medically cleared to serve with durable medical equipment, including but not limited to: CPAP devices, insulin pumps, prosthetic and/or orthotic equipment, you should have a backup plan for device failure, electrical failure or other environmental challenges. The Peace Corps will need your device warranty and replacement information. If you use hearing aids, it is recommended that you bring a dry box if you are assigned to a post in a tropical and/or humid environment. For all battery-operated devices, rechargeable or solar-powered batteries are recommended and you are required to bring enough batteries to last duration of service.

If any of your equipment needs to be replaced or repaired while in service, your PCMO and the Office of Medical Services will assist you. Each case will be evaluated on an individual basis to determine if the Volunteer can remain at post as in some cases a solution is not available in-country.

Gynecologic and reproductive health

If menstrual products are not available to purchase on the local market, the Peace Corps will provide them. If you require a specific product, please bring it with you. Many Volunteers use menstrual cups (The Diva Cup, The Keeper, The Moon Cup, etc.) to avoid potential problems with availability or disposal of single-use menstrual products. Consider bringing one or two menstrual cups with you to use during service.

Routine gynecological care will be provided by your PCMO. Specialty gynecological care is not available in all Peace Corps countries, and referrals (in-country or to another country via medical evacuation) are based on medical necessity as determined by your PCMO and the Office of Health Services.

The Peace Corps offers reproductive health services to all Volunteers. This includes individualized counseling and education on birth control options and the provision of commonly used contraceptives, which vary by country, but universally include free condoms. To reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, as well as unplanned pregnancy, using a condom every time you have sex and adhering to an effective means of birth control is recommended. Emergency contraception is supplied routinely in the medical kit to all Volunteers who may get pregnant.

The Peace Corps' ability to provide contraceptive rings, contraceptive patches, and intrauterine devices is country dependent. If conditions do not allow safe use, other contraceptive alternatives will be offered. Generic equivalents for oral contraceptives can typically be provided. Sterilization procedures to permanently prevent pregnancy (such as tubal ligation or vasectomy) are not provided by the Peace Corps.

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. Your PCMO will provide initial pregnancy support.

The Peace Corps provides all necessary medical and psychological care associated with a Volunteer pregnancy, with the exception of paying for abortion services, except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term, or the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape.

The Peace Corps follows the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for cervical cancer screening (PAP smears) and breast-cancer screening (mammography) and will provide these screenings if indicated. Please see cancer screenings under Staying healthy: Preventive measures for more information.

Volunteers aged 40-75

The Peace Corps follows the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force guidelines for breast cancer and colorectal cancer screening. A mammogram for all female Volunteers aged 40-74 years, and a colorectal cancer screening test (stool sample testing, sigmoidoscopy, or colonoscopy) for all Volunteers aged 45-75 years are required prior to medical clearance.

In countries where there are Peace Corps-approved facilities and providers, the Peace Corps will provide biennial screening mammography for women aged 40-74 years and, if indicated, colon cancer screening for Volunteers aged 45-75. When in-country screening is not available, invitees will be notified prior to service and can request to forego a mammogram and/or colorectal cancer screen during Peace Corps service or work with their placement officer to secure an invitation to a country where recommended screening is available.

Medical evacuation ("medevac") information

If you suffer a from 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.

The Peace Corps does not specify a maximum total number of visits permitted for a given medical, behavioral health, or dental condition. In some cases, however, the health needs of the Volunteer outweigh both the Peace Corps’ ability to provide such services in-country as well as the Volunteer’s ability to perform their regular duties. In these cases, the Office of Health Services will provide the necessary treatment until the Volunteer is transitioned to a higher level of care, which may result in a medical evacuation and potentially in a medical separation.

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 your designated home of record.

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Video: Medical emergencies and health claims

Adventure sports

OHS strongly advises against participation in adventure, extreme, or high-risk sports or activities during service or during leave. These include activities that involve speed, height, a high level of physical exertion and highly specialized equipment. Examples include: bungee jumping, rock and mountain-climbing, white water kayaking, and scuba diving. In an austere environment, lifesaving care may be delayed or inaccessible. Furthermore, while Peace Corps will continue to provide all necessary and appropriate care to Volunteers, any injury sustained on leave that is not a result of Peace Corps work, may not be eligible for Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA) benefits following Volunteer service.

Your Peace Corps medical kit

The PCMO will provide you with a kit containing basic items to prevent and treat illnesses that may occur during service. Medical kit items can be periodically restocked at the medical office. Your kit will include the following items, as well as others specific to your health needs:

  • First aid handbook
  • Adhesive tape
  • Antacid
  • Anti-diarrheal
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antifungal cream
  • Antihistamine
  • Anti-itch cream
  • Antiseptic antimicrobial skin cleaner
  • Bandages
  • Condoms
  • Cough lozenges
  • Decongestant
  • Dental dams (on request)
  • Dental floss
  • Emergency contraception (for Volunteers of childbearing age who may get pregnant)
  • Eye drops
  • Gloves
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Insect repellent
  • Iodine tablets (for water purification)
  • Lip balm
  • Masks (cotton triple-layer)
  • Nose drops
  • Oral rehydration salts
  • Pain medication
  • Pulse oximeter (this is a small battery-powered device which goes on your finger and measures how well oxygen is getting into your blood stream)
  • Safety whistle
  • Sore throat lozenges
  • Sunscreen
  • Thermometer
  • Tweezers