Frequently Asked Questions


Questions Answers
What is the number one symptom of an STI? NO SYMPTOMS. Having no symptoms is the number one symptom of STIs. Getting tested is the only way to know if you have an STI.

What does STI testing involve?

STI tests may look for gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, or syphilis. If you don't have symptoms, testing involves providing a urine sample or a blood sample.

If you have symptoms, a clinician may swab the areas of your body with signs of infection for testing.

How often should I be tested for STIs?

If you are sexually active, you should get tested at least once a year. If you have multiple sex partners, you should get tested before having sex with a new partner. If you do not, take a test 10 days after having sex with a new partner. If you have symptoms, get tested.

How long do STI test results take?

It depends on where you go to get your tests. Usually, it can take 1-2 weeks.

Do regular STI tests include herpes?

No. A usual STI test includes gonorrhea, chlamydia, HIV, and syphilis. Herpes testing is only for people with symptoms.

Does a Pap smear test for STIs?

No. Pap smears to screen for cervical cancer caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), an STI.

How do you get an STI test?

TEXT Testing123 at (281) 962-8378 for free, fast, and confidential HIV/syphilis testing wherever you are in Harris/Montgomery County.

To schedule an appointment for an HIV and STI prevention exam, you can call Harris County Public Health’s Patient Appointment Call Center at (713) 212-6800.




Is there a 100% effective way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and STIs?

The only 100% effective way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV and STIs is by not having sex (vaginal, anal, and oral sex). Using a male or female condom can reduce your chance of getting HIV and STIs.

Do birth control methods other than condoms reduce the risk of STIs, including HIV?

No. Only condoms reduce the risk of pregnancy, STIs, and HIV. All other contraceptives do not prevent the spread of HIV or STIs.

What is the correct way to use a condom?

Store condoms in a cool place, out of direct sunlight, check the expiration date, and open the package carefully. Using teeth or fingernails to open the package can rip the condom.

Do internal and external condoms provide the same protection against HIV?

Internal condoms are made of nitrile, making them just as effective as an external condom to stop the spread of HIV. Internal and external condoms should not be used at the same time, for they can break.




Who can take PrEP?

PrEP may be right for you if you test negative for HIV, and any of the following apply to you:

You have had anal or vaginal sex in the past six months, and you

  • have a sexual partner with HIV (especially if the partner has an unknown or detectable viral load),
  • have not consistently used a condom, or
  • have been diagnosed with an STD in the past six months.

You inject drugs, and you

  • have an injection partner with HIV, or
  • share needles, syringes, or other equipment to inject drugs (for example, cookers).

You have been prescribed PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis), and

  • report continued risk behavior, or
  • have used multiple courses of PEP.

Is PrEP only for people who frequently have sex with multiple partners?

PrEP is useful only to sexually active people, whether you have only one sexual partner or several partners. It gives you control over your own body.

Is PrEP too expensive for me?

Most insurance plans cover PrEP. If you do not have insurance, several patient assistance program options can assist you.

If I take PrEP, do I need to use a condom?

PrEP only protects against HIV. It does not protect from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Using condoms will protect you against STIs.

How effective is PrEP?

Like all medications, PrEP is not 100% effective.

Does PrEP encourage people to have more sex?

PrEP encourages a safe and respectful approach toward sexual intimacy. PrEP does not encourage people to have more sex partners or more sex.

Is PrEP only needed right before sex?

PrEP takes weeks before the preventative effects can accumulate. Receptive anal partners should take the drug a minimal seven days and vaginal partners 20 days before engaging in sex.

What are the side effects of PrEP?

Common side effects in people taking DESCOVY for PrEP include diarrhea, nausea, headache, fatigue, and stomach pain.

Serious side effects are rare but may include kidney problems, lactic acid in the blood, and liver problems.