HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a rare virus that affects the body’s immune system. As an older adult, regular health screenings are essential for catching and treating chronic health conditions, including HIV and AIDS. Medicare covers regular HIV screenings to help you get the healthcare you need. Today is National HIV Testing Day, and we must continue to raise awareness about the importance of HIV testing and early diagnosis of HIV. Fortunately, Medicare offers HIV testing to help you stay safe and healthy.

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that attacks your body’s white blood cells. This makes the body unable to fight infections, making you more susceptible to other dangerous diseases. About two-thirds of patients who have HIV will get flu-like symptoms within a few weeks of contracting the virus. After this initial infection, the virus will move into a latent stage, where your body does not show any symptoms. If left untreated, the virus can eventually progress to becoming AIDS, or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS can cause ongoing fatigue, sores and purple blotches on the skin, dramatic weight loss, fever, and other serious symptoms. HIV is transmitted primarily through sexual contact. Drug users can also contract the virus by sharing needles with an HIV-positive person. In rare cases, the virus can pass from mother to child through breast milk.

Preventing the Spread of HIV

When HIV was first identified in the 1980s, it was extremely deadly, and there were no available treatments. While a cure for HIV is still not available, today there are treatments that can effectively manage the condition. To prevent the transmission of HIV, it’s very important to wear condoms during all sexual contact. Many people who have HIV do not know they have it, which is why consistent, safe sex is key to stopping the spread. It’s also very important to get treatment to stop ongoing drug use, and to always make sure you are using clean needles. If HIV is caught right away, your doctor can prescribe medicine that will lower your viral load and dramatically reduce your risk of transferring the infection to your partner. Partners of people who have HIV can take PrEP, a medication that prevents the spread of HIV.

HIV and Medicare

Regular testing will identify HIV early so that you can get the appropriate treatment. Medicare Part B covers a yearly screening for those between the ages of 15 and 65, or those who are at an increased risk for HIV. This includes people with multiple sexual partners, gay and bisexual men, and those who use intravenous drugs. Pregnant women can also get this screening up to three times in a year. You can also get regular HIV testing once a year if you ask to be tested or if your doctor orders it. In this case, your doctor will have to accept Medicare assignment, which is essentially a commitment not to bill you for testing beyond the initial deductible. Knowing your HIV is status is key to preventing the spread of the disease.

If you’d like to learn more about HIV testing for older adults and your Medicare coverage options, feel free to fill out the form or give us a call anytime. Our licensed agents are focused on giving you the information you need, with zero pressure to enroll in a plan.