HIV/AIDS Awareness Month
Quality of care for Veteran’s includes raising awareness around important health topics. By highlighting some of the national health awareness campaigns each month, Veterans can get ideas, information, and resources on a variety of health matters.
December is HIV/AIDS Awareness Month, and we want to increase Veteran’s awareness on the importance of getting tested for this deadly virus. VA’s goal is to make HIV testing more "routine," like testing for diabetes and cholesterol. VHA is the largest single provider of HIV care in the U.S., providing care to more than 26,000 Veterans with HIV in 2013. However, only 30 percent of Veterans in VA care have been tested for HIV. One of VA’s missions is to raise awareness about getting tested and preventing further spread of HIV/AIDS.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)
- HIV is transmitted most commonly through sexual contact of an infected person or using needles that are contaminated with the virus
- Having unprotected sex and sharing needles makes you more at risk for getting the virus
- HIV compromises a person’s immune system and its ability to fight off infections
- Unlike most viruses, HIV stays in the body and never goes away
- Early symptoms may include fever, headache, muscle aches and joint pain, rash, sore throat and swollen lymph glands
- HIV is most commonly diagnosed by testing your blood or saliva for antibodies to the virus
- The antibodies can take up to 4 months to develop in a person’s body
AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome)
- AIDS is the advanced stage of the virus
- At this stage the infected person’s immune system is severely weakened and fails to fight off certain kinds of infections and cancers resulting in death
- The first AIDS case was reported in the U.S. in 1981 and has since become a major worldwide epidemic
- It can take between 2 to 10 years, or longer, for an HIV infected person to develop AIDS, even without any treatment
The good news is there are treatment options that can delay the onset of AIDS. That’s why it’s important to talk to your health care provider if you think you’re at risk of contracting the virus. By taking the proper precautions you can avoid contracting HIV/AIDS.
Right now there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but if diagnosed early you can help prevent the spread of this dangerous virus and get treatment that can prolong your life. That’s why it’s important to get tested.
Resources – (click links below to open in new tab)
Getting Tested – VA
Get Checked: Say Yes to the HIV Test – MyHealthevet
Understanding HIV and AIDS - MyHealthevet