Veterans' Stories: The VA and 30 Years of AIDS

Content From: HIV.govPublished: June 20, 20112 min read


Don't forget the chapter on AIDS
Did you know that the Veterans Health Administration is the largest single provider of HIV care in the United States, providing care for more than 24,000 Veterans living with HIV in 2010?

The VA has been and remains an integral part of the service delivery system for people living with HIV in our country. The agency has a history of HIV care that goes back to 1981, when the CDC reported the first cases of AIDS. Here’s a quote from a nurse whose reminiscences appear on the VA’s 30 Years of AIDS site:
I remember hearing about a disease affecting gay men in 1984, but as a Psychiatric Clinical Specialist working in Mental Health, I did not think I would be affected in my specialty area. But then a Veteran came into my office and told me he was dying from some new disease and he did not know how to tell his parents that he was dying and that he was a homosexual. He died exactly 14 days later, leaving parents who were confused and devastated. My journey through the AIDS crisis had begun.
The VA Public Health Strategic Healthcare Group recently redesigned its HIV/AIDS pages for providers and patients to better serve its site visitors. In addition, the VA posted a special web feature looking at 30 years of AIDS for health care providers, Veterans and the public. Posted there are several “perspectives” --- reflections and stories told by VA providers and Veterans who were on the front-line of the epidemic. Here are the perspectives posted to date:
  • Janet Gearin, RN, Clinical Nurse Specialist in Behavioral Medicine Service at the VA CBOC in Tulsa, Oklahoma
  • Matthew Goetz, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Director of the Clinical AIDS/HIV Program at the VA Greater Los Angeles Healthcare System
  • K. Heck, A Veteran in Oklahoma
  • David Rimland, MD, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Director of the HIV Program at the VA Medical Center, Atlanta
  • Paul Volberding, MD, Chief of the medical service at the San Francisco Veterans Affairs Medical Center, and principal investigator and co-director of UCSF's Center for AIDS Research.
  • Charlie W, A Veteran
These stories remind me of the important work done at VA facilities, yesteryear, yesterday and today. And each story reminds me of the power of storytelling. Check out this “perspectives” series often as more stories get posted.

These inspiring stories also complement the VA’s current national campaign Get Checked, Say Yes to the Test. Don’t miss all that the VA is doing to increase HIV testing in VA facilities especially as we approach June 27 - National HIV Testing Day. As VA staff will tell you: HIV testing saves lives. Get Checked, Say Yes to the Test.