December 1 is World AIDS Day. VA joins our federal partners in recognizing this day and taking time to reflect on the impact of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, how well we diagnose and care for people with HIV, and our continued efforts to prevent HIV among those most vulnerable.
VA is the single largest provider of HIV care in the US, serving over 30,000 Veterans with HIV across the country. VA is committed to each step in the HIV care continuum from testing and diagnosis, to linkage to care, and treatment and prevention. Community and federal partners play a critical in extending the care we can provide to our Veterans with HIV.
With over 43% of all Veterans in care tested for HIV, VA is committed to ensuring all Veterans continue to have access to testing and high-quality HIV care at diagnosis.
VA is committed to testing and high-quality HIV care.
VA is also committed to HIV prevention by continuing to strongly promote Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), a medication that can help prevent HIV for those who are negative but at risk for HIV.
In 2018, VA is also focusing on increasing awareness and action on HIV treatment as prevention (TasP) or Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U).
If a person with HIV is on HIV medications (antiretroviral therapy, or ART) with a consistently undetectable HIV viral load, the HIV virus cannot be transmitted to a sex partner. “Undetectable” means that the level of HIV in a person’s blood is so low that it doesn’t show up on a blood test.
If the virus is undetectable, the person with HIV cannot pass the virus on to others through sex. This is critical to preventing new cases of HIV. At VA, we are working to make sure that people diagnosed with HIV are started on treatment right away and stay on treatment.
You can ask your VA provider about PrEP, and you can ask them for a prescription for condoms at your next visit. With your help in taking preventative measures, we can reduce the number of new HIV infections and work to make sure Veterans in VA care with HIV are receiving the very best treatment available.
Learn more about prevention on the VA’s HIV/AIDS Website.
Elizabeth Maguire, MSW, is the communications lead for the HIV, Hepatitis and Related Conditions Programs.