VA North Texas Health Care System
All Veterans Are Encouraged to Be Tested for HIV
The Veterans Health Administration is the largest single provider of HIV care in the United States. More than 25,000 Veterans with HIV received care last year, but unfortunately only 20% of Veterans in the VA system have ever been tested for HIV.
To help promote early diagnosis of HIV, Veterans can provide verbal consent for voluntary HIV testing, which is now recommended as a part of their routine medical care. If you have HIV, the sooner you know, the sooner you can take steps to stay healthy.
Everyone, not just people who think they are at risk, should be tested. A person with HIV could show no symptoms for years but still pass the virus on to others. Like many other diseases, it is better to diagnose and treat HIV early rather than late. There have been many advances in the treatment of HIV, and as a result, people with HIV often live much longer and healthier lives than before.
HIV is spread by:
- Unprotected (without a condom) sexual contact
- Sharing needles or "works" (cookers and other things used to prepare drugs for injection) during drug use
- From an HIV infected woman to her baby during pregnancy, labor or breastfeeding
It is estimated that 1.2 million people in the United States live with HIV, and one out of five are unaware they are infected.
"HIV testing within VA is voluntary, but we encourage it," said Roger Bedimo, M.D., chief of infectious diseases section at VA North Texas Health Care System. The HIV test consists of a simple blood draw, and results will not affect VA care or eligibility for VA benefits.
A positive result means you have an HIV infection and can pass it to others. A negative result means either you do not have HIV or got it so recently that your body has not had time to make enough antibodies to be detected by the test. "Your provider may recommend repeating the test in 3-6 months if you recently been engaged in risky behavior," Bedimo said.
VA offers HIV testing as part of its comprehensive, world-class care for the men and women who have served this Nation in uniform. Testing, regardless of age or risk factors, is an important step to healthier, longer lives.
Get checked. Say yes to the test! Veterans are encouraged to speak to their provider and ask for an HIV test. It could save your life.