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VA Cooperative Studies Program (CSP)

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Veteran Aging Cohort Study (VACS)


Investigator Access

What's Available

  • Research Data: Complete individual level medical-record and administrative data
  • Biospecimens: Banked serum, plasma, and blood pellet samples

Available Documentation

Additional information is available on the ‘for investigators’ page1 on the VACS website.

Dates Data are Available

Data are available on an ongoing basis, with continuous enrollment in this study

Access Criteria

Individuals interested in VACS data and biospecimens must complete a VACS Project Proposal Request Form1. Additional information is available on the ‘for investigators’ page1 on the VACS website.

Study Characteristics


To understand the role of comorbid medical and psychiatric disease in determining clinical outcomes in HIV infection

Era of Service



HIV-positive Veterans and an age/race/site matched control group of HIV-negative Veterans in care

Study Design

Prospective observational cohort

Time Period

1997 - present




Two ongoing cohorts: 

  • >40,000 HIV-positive Veteran participants and a 1:2 (>80,000) age/race/site matched sample of uninfected control participants (since 1997)
  • >7,000 VACS 9 patients (half HIV-positive participants, half HIV-negative control participants) (since 2002)

Response Rate

Rolling admissions

Recruitment Method

  • Study coordinators approach patients at their regular clinic appointments
  • Enrollment is offered when a Veteran presents for care for HIV, then a matched control participant will be offered enrollment
  • End of fiscal year (FY) updates are made to include new HIV+ Veterans and their matched controls. Quarterly updates are made to remove deceased participants from the cohort and update cause of death forms.


  • $20 for participation in paper questionnaire
  • $25 for focus group participation

Data Collected

  • Complete medical record information (including pharmacy fills, laboratory data, pathology data, radiology data, and progress notes)
  • Administrative data (including utilization and diagnostic codes)
  • Patient and provider surveys (quality of life, symptoms, adherence, alcohol use, drug use, health habits)
  • Banked serum, plasma, and blood pellet samples

Data Collection Methods 

  • Patient and provider self-report
  • Telephone interviews
  • Blood and DNA samples
  • Focus groups
  • Patients’ VA electronic medical records

Funding Sources

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH) - National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)
  • NIH - National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)


Primary Investigator: Amy Justice, MD, PhD



Selected Publications

Justice AC, Dombrowski E, Conigliaro J, et al. Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS): Overview and Description. Medical Care. 2006; 44(8): S13-S24.

Braithwaite RS, Fang Y, Tate J, et al. Do Alcohol Misuse, Smoking, and Depression Vary Concordantly or Sequentially? A Longitudinal Study of HIV-Infected and Matched Uninfected Veterans in Care. AIDS Behav. 2016 Mar; 20(3): 566-72.

Freiberg MS, Chang CH, Skanderson M, et al. Association Between HIV Infection and the Risk of Heart Failure With Reduced Ejection Fraction and Preserved Ejection Fraction in the Antiretroviral Therapy Era: Results from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study. JAMA Cardiol. 2017 May 1; 2(5): 536-546.

So-Armah KA, Lim JK, Lo Re V, Tate JP, Chang CH, Butt AA, Gibert CL, Rimland D, Marconi VC, Goetz MB, Rodriguez-Barradas MC, Budoff MJ, Tindle HA, Samet JH, Justice AC, Freiberg MS; Veterans Aging Cohort Study Project Team. FIB-4 stage of liver fibrosis predicts incident heart failure among HIV-infected and uninfected patients. Hepatology. 2017 Oct; 66(4): 1286-1295.

More Information

Study website1                          
Dimensions for VA summary (Requires an account to access outside the VA network. Dimensions for VA is a database that connects publications, grants, patents, clinical trials, and policy documents)             

1 This link takes you to a non-U.S. government website. VA isn't responsible for the content or privacy policies on that site and doesn't endorse the content or its sponsor.