for Veterans and the Public
Should you get tested?
Yes, public health experts now recommend that all adults should be routinely tested for HIV infection.
In the past, doctors and other health care providers usually only tested for HIV if patients had symptoms that might indicate an immune deficiency or if there was something in the their medical history that suggested they might be at increased risk for the virus.
Are Veterans in the VA being tested?
Since mid-August, 2009, the VA changed its policies and is now recommending that voluntary HIV testing be provided to all patients who receive medical care--even for those Veterans who do not think that they have risk factors. The reason for this change is to make HIV testing more "routine" so that persons who are infected can be diagnosed early on and receive life-saving care. Like many other diseases, it is better to diagnose and treat HIV early rather than late. Today we are fortunate that there are many effective treatments to offer persons who are found to be infected.
Veterans with identified risk factors should get tested for HIV at least once a year. Medical clues to increased risk include a past or current history of a sexually transmitted disease like gonorrhea or syphilis, having unprotected sex (having sex without using a condom), especially with more than one partner, and sharing needles and syringes to inject drugs.
A recent electronic survey conducted at 129 VA medical facilities showed that in 2009, fewer than one out of every ten Veterans in care had EVER received an HIV test and only one in every forty had been tested for HIV in 2009. Getting diagnosed and treated early can keep you healthier longer. It can even save your life. So, Even if you do not think you are "at risk" you should talk to your doctor about taking the HIV test. And if your doctor doesn't bring up the subject of HIV testing, you should!