for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Would you know whether you're infected with HIV without getting tested?
No. The only way to know if you are infected with HIV is to get tested.
Although some people do have a flulike illness around the time they get infected, many do not. Also, even if you have a flulike illness from HIV, it's usually pretty difficult to tell it apart from ... the flu. So, even people who have the symptoms of HIV infection may think they just have the flu.
Many HIV-infected people, including those with AIDS, don't feel or look sick in any way. They find out that they are HIV infected only when they get tested. Sometimes this testing is done as part of routine health exams, like getting your cholesterol checked. Other times, people get tested only when they suddenly become seriously ill with a life-threatening infection, and their doctors need to know whether the infection is a result of a weakened immune system caused by HIV.
Getting tested for HIV is crucial for protecting your health. It's better to find out you are HIV infected when your immune system is still relatively healthy, so that you can start taking medications to control the virus before it makes you sick. Also, finding out you are HIV infected allows you to take steps to avoid infecting your sex partners or (for women) to prevent transmission to a fetus or infancy during pregnancy or childbirth.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that every adult in the United States be tested for HIV at least once. The VHA recommends that voluntary HIV testing be provided to all patients who receive medical care, and encourages all Veterans to be tested.