Women Veterans Health Care
Medical treatments are helping people who have human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) live healthy, normal lives.
HIV attacks the cells that help you fight infections, and it is usually spread through contact with some body fluids such as during unprotected sex or through sharing needles.
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. You may be infected for a long time without showing any symptoms. VHA recommends screening for HIV in all adults aged 18 years and older and in Veterans with ongoing risk factors at least annually. VHA also recommends screening for HIV in all pregnant Veterans.
Some people may get flu-like symptoms, or have an acute HIV infection, within 2-4 weeks of infection. Symptoms may include:
- Night sweats
- Muscle aches
- Sore throat
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Mouth ulcers
If left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HIV tests may involve a blood test or a swab from your cheek for saliva. Both are effective, but the test you receive depends on your local VA center.
Have a discussion with your provider to review your risk factors to see how often you should test for HIV infection. All Veterans who are enrolled in VA health care are eligible for HIV testing.
Testing is not mandatory, and you have the option to refuse. The results will be reported in your medical record but are confidential. If someone tests positive for HIV, VA offers full service resources to help with diagnosis, treatment, and living with HIV.
Reduce your risk for HIV infection
You can reduce your risk for HIV a number of ways:
- Choose not to have sex or inject drugs
- Chose sexual activities that are less risky than anal or vaginal sex
- Use condoms
- Use a water- or silicone-based lubricant with condoms
- Use lubricants with anal sex
You may also talk with your primary health care provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP is a daily pill that lowers your risk of getting HIV. PrEP may help you if you test negative for HIV, but have other risks, such as:
- Having an HIV-positive partner
- Having multiple sex partners
- Having a partner who has other sex partners
- Having a partner whose HIV status is unknown
- Using needles to inject drugs or having sex with someone who injects drugs
You will need to follow up with your health care provider every 3 months if you take PrEP. Also, PrEP does not prevent pregnancy or other sexually transmitted infections (STI).
How do I get tested for HIV at VA?
Talk with your provider to review your risk factors and see how often you should test for HIV infection. Remember, everyone should get tested at least once in their lifetime.
The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to women's health
If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
Can I get disability compensation (monthly payments) or other benefits from VA related to HIV testing?
First, you need to know that your HIV test result will not affect your VA care or your eligibility for VA benefits. Second, you have the right to refuse HIV testing without losing medical benefits or any right to care.
Explore disability eligibility here. If you have questions, a Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) representative at your nearest regional office can explain more. Find your nearest regional office.
Where can I find more information, help and resources on HIV testing?
- Explore VA information about testing options, preventative treatment, and living with HIV.
- To find more information about HIV and testing, visit the CDC website. *
- Learn more about testing for different types of sexually transmitted infections. *
- Read the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) fact sheet on the OraQuick In-Home HIV Test, the only FDA-approved in-home HIV test. *
* By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs web site.
† VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked web site.