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Talking to your Health Care Provider about Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)

Contributed by Dr. Matthew Goetz

Couple talking with doctor

Talking to your health care provider about human immunodeficiency virus or HIV may be scary. However, it is as normal as talking about diabetes, high blood pressure, or cholesterol - and to ask to be tested for these medical problems -is a part of routine medical care. Your health care provider wants you to ask for the HIV test.

Conversations about HIV and HIV testing with your health care provider are important because many people who have HIV infection do not have any signs or symptoms of the disease for many years. Even if you feel fine, the HIV virus can be destroying your body's immune system. Also, people who do not know that they have HIV may infect their partners with HIV without knowing it.

Couple's hands clasped

Most Veterans have never been tested for HIV in the VA. The VA will not test you for HIV unless you give permission. So unless you or your health care provider has asked for the test, you have not been tested. So you need to ask for the HIV test on your next visit.

If you are HIV positive, VA has world-class health care providers and offers the best HIV care in the United States. Treatment can be as simple as one pill, once a day. If you take your medication as prescribed by your health care provider, you can live for many, many years. HIV is no longer a death sentence, it is a treatable disease such as diabetes or high blood pressure.

Advances in medicine have significantly improved the survival of HIV positive people. But you cannot benefit from these advances unless you know your HIV status. So ask your health care provider for an HIV test today.

Did you know...?

  • More than one in five people with HIV in the US do not know that they are infected with HIV?

  • HIV positive people often do not have symptoms of infection for many years (10 years or more) after being infected?

  • People who do not know that they have HIV are more likely to transmit the virus to others?

  • HIV positive people on treatment are less likely to infect others?

  • Most Veterans with HIV are over the age of 50?

  • Many new HIV diagnoses are in people living in rural areas?

  • You can live a long, healthy life if you are treated for HIV?

  • Treatment can be as simple as one pill, once a day?

  • VA health care providers provide some of the best HIV care in the United States?

  • Being diagnosed late (when you already have AIDS) can decrease your chances of living a long productive life?

  • Your health care provider cannot test you for HIV testing without your permission? You must agree or ask for an HIV test before it can be ordered by your provider.

  • The results of HIV testing and the fact that you were tested in the VA is confidential? It will not be shared with anyone outside the VA (with rare exceptions that require your specific written permission).

  • The American College of Physicians, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the VA recommend that all adults over the age of 13 be tested for HIV at least once per lifetime and that those persons with higher risk get tested more frequently?

  • Asking for an HIV test is just as normal and routine as asking to be checked for diabetes, high cholesterol or heart disease?

Ask your VA provider today about being tested for HIV!

Read More

Questions to Ask Your Doctor (VA) Questions to ask about your diagnosis, treatment and clinical trials.

HIV/AIDS Basics (VA) find answers to: What is HIV? What is AIDS? How is HIV spread? What are the symptoms? Are you at risk? Are there long-term effects?

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Updated December 1, 2011