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VA officials urge veterans to get tested on National HIV Testing Day

WASHINGTON -- June 27th is National HIV Testing Day and Department of Veterans Affairs officials will be promoting and offering testing to veterans at VA medical facilities across the nation.

"Everyone should be tested for HIV/AIDS because early detection saves lives," said VA Secretary Eric K, Shinseki. "The challenge for VA is to increase HIV testing so that we can promote timely linkage to care."

June 5, 1981, was the first case of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"VA has been part of the fight against HIV/AIDS since the beginning, taking care of some of the first patients that year," said Dr. Robert Petzel, VA's undersecretary for health. "VA has continued to provide compassionate, excellent care ever since, providing the latest, best treatments as they are made available."

The importance of early detection of HIV cannot be overstated. Federal experts recommend that HIV testing be part of routine medical care. Routine voluntary HIV testing is now official VA policy. Throughout the VA health care system, specialists at VA facilities are working toward making sure veterans are tested for HIV at least once in their lives and those at risk are tested at least every year.

Officials at VA health care facilities are reaffirming this message on June 27, National HIV Testing Day. Some facilities offer HIV testing on a walk-in basis or via routine care in primary care clinics. Other facilities offer HIV testing as part of health fairs, some are providing seminars for VA staff, and others are handing out information about HIV to patients.

VA is the largest single provider of HIV care in the country, taking care of approximately 24,000 veterans with HIV a year. VA facilities have the latest and best treatments available for HIV, enabling VA patients with HIV to live healthier, longer lives. The goal of VA specialists is to diagnose HIV infection as soon as possible, in order to get patients into excellent care.

For extensive information about VA and HIV for patients and health care providers visit