National HIV Testing Day - William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital
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William S. Middleton Memorial Veterans Hospital

 

National HIV Testing Day

HIV poster encouraging testing

HIV poster encouraging testing

By Katherine J. Matteson, RN
Friday, July 1, 2011

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 the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). People who are infected with HIV may not have symptoms for many years. As a result, HIV continues to be a major public health problem.  Even without symptoms, people who are not aware of their HIV infection may unknowingly spread the virus to others.  It is estimated that half of HIV infected individuals do not receive care for their HIV infection. Without treatment, HIV can weaken the immune system to the point that a person can get serious infections or cancers.

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 at regularly scheduled well-patient doctor’s visits. Like many other diseases, it is better to diagnose and treat HIV early, rather than late.  There are many effective treatment options available for individuals infected with HIV.


According to the CDC, there are many ways to take action in response to HIV/AIDS.  June 27, 2011 is National HIV Testing Day and it is a day to remind us all to:

  • Take the test and take control. Even if you do not think you are at risk, you should talk to your health care provider about taking the HIV test.
  • Decide not to engage in high risk behaviors :
    • Abstain from sexual activity or only have sex if you are in a mutual monogamous relationship and you both test negative for HIV
    • Don't inject illicit drugs (those not prescribed by your doctor)
  • Practice safer methods to prevent HIV:
    • Limit your number of sex partners. The fewer partners you have, the less likely you are to encounter someone who is infected with HIV or another STD.
    • Use a condom every time you have sex (anal, vaginal, or oral).
    • Use condoms correctly.  Latex condoms are highly effective at preventing transmission of HIV and some other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  “Natural” or lambskin condoms do not provide sufficient protection against HIV infection.
    • Participate in risk reduction programs. Programs exist to help people make healthy decisions, such as negotiating condom use or discussing HIV status
    • 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 
The National Hotline for HIV information is: 1-800-HIV-0440 (1-800-448-0440)

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