The Department of Veterans Affairs is observing World AIDS Day on Thursday, Dec. 1, the 30th anniversary of the identification of the disease caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Some of the first cases of HIV/AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) were seen by VA clinicians. Since then, VA has continued to be a national model for outstanding HIV care and has made significant strides in treatment of Veterans infected with the virus.
"The Department of Veterans Affairs is a leader in this important area of health care and continuing to provide world-class care to Veterans with HIV/AIDS," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki. "Significant progress in HIV diagnosis, treatment, and research has been made at VA. The Department will continue to strive to provide excellent care to all Veterans infected with the virus."
VA is the largest provider of care in the country to those living with HIV, serving more than 24,000 Veterans with the infection. The VA is one of the lead federal agencies implementing the National HIV/AIDS Strategy to strengthen and coordinate a national response to the domestic HIV/AIDS epidemic.
In the 30 years since HIV/AIDS was discovered, significant progress has been made in the fight against this disease. Patients can expect to live longer, healthier lives if they have access to and are adherent to antiretroviral therapy for their HIV infection. For example, 91 percent of Veterans with HIV who are candidates for antiretroviral therapy are currently on treatment and more than 96 percent of newly HIV-positive Veterans were linked to care within 90 days of diagnosis.
The federal government's theme for this year's World AIDS Day is "Leading with Science, Uniting for Action." VA is a leader in research on HIV and aging through the large-scale Veterans Aging Cohort Study, run by Dr. Amy Justice at the VA Connecticut Healthcare System. More than 50 percent of Veterans with HIV are over the age of 50. The average age of the HIV-positive patients in the VA is about 15 years older than the HIV-positive patients in the rest of the U.S. By better understanding how HIV affects other non-HIV related illnesses, the Veterans Aging Cohort Study will help to prepare the rest of the nation to care for the aging of its HIV-positive patients.
VA has increased its outreach for HIV testing, ensuring that all Veterans with HIV receive high-quality care, and continue to reduce any health disparities. VA has also made HIV testing of all Veterans part of routine care with the goal of having all Veterans in care tested at least once.
For more information on HIV/AIDS care in VA, please visit www.hiv.va.gov.