Los Angeles Veterans Affairs Offering No-Cost Rapid HIV Tests
The VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System on Tuesday began providing no-cost oral rapid HIV tests in downtown Los Angeles to veterans as part of a campaign to encourage testing and treatment, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Matthew Goetz, chief of infectious diseases at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' West Los Angeles Healthcare Center, said veterans are slightly more likely to contract HIV, compared with the general population. He added that the outreach program was launched in response to an ongoing nationwide study of HIV-positive veterans, which found that 50% of those newly diagnosed learned their status after the virus had advanced to the point where they required medical treatment. Previously, veterans who wanted to be tested for HIV had to have blood drawn and sent to a laboratory for analysis, the Times reports.
Goetz said that the local VA system chose to launch the campaign in the downtown area because it has a large population of homeless veterans. VA estimates that about one-third of homeless adults in the U.S. are veterans and that 70% of them have alcohol or drug problems. Homelessness and substance abuse are associated with some high-risk behaviors, including needle sharing and unprotected sex, that can increase the risk of HIV, the Times reports. VA -- the largest health care provider in the U.S. -- offers treatment to more HIV-positive people than any other provider in the country, according to the Times (Engle, Los Angeles Times, 4/2).