William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that one out of five people in the U.S. do not know they are infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). People who are infected with HIV may not have symptoms for many years. Even without symptoms, people who are not aware of their HIV infection can spread the virus to others.
The CDC recommends that all adults should be tested for HIV as part of their routine medical care. The VA agrees that HIV testing should be a part of routine medical care; even for those Veterans who do not think they are at risk for getting HIV. An HIV test is the only way to be certain about your HIV status. Everyone who is old enough to be sexually active or do recreational drugs should be tested routinely. Like many other diseases, it is better to diagnose and treat HIV early, rather than late.
The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) is the largest single provider of HIV care in the United States. To date, nearly 64,000 Veterans with HIV have received care in the VHA. To facilitate easy access for identification and treatment HIV/AIDS, the VA system has implemented the following changes:
- VA healthcare providers are encouraged to routinely offer HIV testing to all Veterans
- Veterans no longer need to provide written consent, but rather only verbal consent. Veternas maintain the right to refuse HIV testing without losing medical benefits or any right to care.
- HIV testing is included as a part of routine annual check-ups for all Veternas despite risk factors for carrying HIV.
Veterans who test positive for HIV are referred for state-of-the-art HIV treatment to prevent complications associated with HIV infection:
- Take the test and take control.
- Decide not to engage in high risk behaviors
- Practice safer methods to prevent HIV
- Limit your number of sex partners
- Use a condom every time you have sex (vaginal, anal, or oral)
- Use condoms correctly
- Participate in risk reduction programs
- If you do inject drugs, never share needles, syringes or other “works”
- Talk about HIV prevention with family, friends, and colleagues
- Provide support to people living with HIV/AIDS
The earlier HIV is detected, the sooner a Veteran can receive excellent care provided by the VA and begin taking steps to remain healthy for many years and even decades. For more information on VA and HIV, go to www.hiv.va.gov