Overview of HIV

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infection transmitted from one person to another from sharing needles, sexual contact, and transferred from mother to baby. When an individual has HIV, the virus causes serious damage to their immune system, making it easy for them to get other infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is called Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, and it can be deadly. 

There is currently no cure for HIV. Once someone is infected, they will have it for life. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners. HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test cannot detect it (called an undetectable viral load).

Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed) is the best thing you can do to stay healthy. If you have HIV, it is important to make choices that keep you healthy and protect others. 

HIV Symptoms

Many people have flu-like symptoms within 2-4 weeks after infection with HIV. Symptoms include fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers, as seen in the picture below. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested.


Picture Source: https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/basics/whatishiv.html

Preventing HIV with PrEP

PrEP or pre-exposure prophylaxis is a one-pill-a-day medication taken by HIV-negative people to prevent getting HIV from sex or injection drug use. There are two types of PrEP:

  • Truvada  is for all people at risk through sex or injection drug use
  • Descovy is for people at risk through sex, except for people assigned female at birth who are at risk of getting HIV from vaginal sex


Need a PrEP Prescription?

Find a PrEP provider near you to get PrEP and prevent HIV:


Preventing HIV with nPEP
nPEP stands for non-occupational post-exposure prophylaxis. It is an HIV prevention medication given when there is exposure to the virus. nPEP must be taken within 72 hours after exposure. Sex without a condom, sharing needles with persons with HIV or whose HIV status is unknown, and those who experienced sexual assault may need nPEP.
Positive Results

People who have a positive HIV or STI result should seek treatment as soon as possible. Their sexual and needle-sharing partners should be notified so that they can receive services as well. To let someone know they were exposed to HIV or another STI:

  1. Contact partners directly,
  2. Have a Disease Intervention Specialist (a trained and certified worker to tell people that they may be infected with HIV or other STIs) notify them, or
  3. Send an anonymous text message through the partner notification messaging system.

Text Testing123 at (281) 962-8378 for more information!

Treatment and U=U

The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load. Medical treatment reduces the amount of HIV in the blood. A person who is HIV positive can reach such a low viral load that a test cannot detect the virus in the blood, which is called an undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load prevents transmission of HIV through sexual contact. An undetectable viral load means HIV is untransmittable (U=U). This is not a CURE! Viral load will become detectable if stop taking medications.


Picture Source: https://chipts.ucla.edu/features/community-advisory-board-creates-uu-for-women-infographic/

Overview of STIs

There are many other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Medication can cure some, but some are incurable diseases. Treatment can manage incurable STIs if diagnosed early. All of these can cause severe damage to people's health and even threaten their lives. However, a person can still have an STI, although they may not have symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have an STI is to get tested.


Picture Source: https://www.cdc.gov/std/prevention/lowdown/lowdown-text-only.htm

Syphilis is a curable bacterial infection spread when exposed to a syphilis sore (chancre) through oral, anal, and vaginal sex. If left untreated, it can cause permanent health problems. Untreated syphilis can also harm a pregnant woman’s unborn child. Although symptoms are a good sign of a syphilis infection, people can have no symptoms at all and still be infected! The best way to know if you have syphilis is through testing.


Picture Source: https://www.verywellhealth.com/syphilis-signs-and-symptoms-49530

Genital Herpes

Herpes Simplex Virus is an incurable (but treatable!) viral infection. It can cause painful, itchy sores on your vagina, vulva, cervix, penis, scrotum, butt, anus, or upper thighs. Genital herpes is common, with most people not having symptoms at all! However, even without the "sores" or "bumps," herpes can be spread to other sex partners through saliva and touching of the skin. There are two types of Herpes Simplex Virus Type 1 & 2:

HSV-1: usually causes oral herpes (upper body)

HSV-2: usually causes genital herpes (lower body)

However, either strain can affect any area of the body.

Human Papilloma Virus (HPV)

Human papillomavirus is an incurable (but treatable!) viral infection. There are many types of HPV, causing different symptoms such as cancers or genital warts. Vaginal, anal, or oral sex spread HPV. Safe sex practices and the HPV vaccine can help with preventing HPV.

Viral Hepatitis

There are several types of viral hepatitis. The hepatitis B (HBV) type is an incurable (but treatable!) viral infection that can cause liver disease. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex and blood spread Hepatitis B. The virus can cause mild cold or flu-like symptoms. But if untreated, hepatitis B can cause severe liver and organ disease. However, most individuals do not show signs, so testing is the only way to be sure of an infection. In addition, safe sex practices and the HBV vaccine can help with preventing disease.