General Questions

What are HIV and STDs?

HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus — the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

STDs are Sexually Transmitted Diseases, which include HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, human papillomavirus (HPV), and others.

How are HIV and other STDs passed?

The most common way for HIV and other STDs to be passed is through sexual contact (vaginal, anal, or oral sex). Infections can also be passed through sharing needles, having contact with infected blood, or from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Many people with HIV do not have symptoms for several years after becoming infected. Some people may develop mild, temporary flu-like symptoms or swollen glands shortly after becoming infected. After someone has been infected with HIV for some time, he or she may exhibit symptoms of AIDS, which are usually more serious.

The only way to know for sure if you are infected, and to protect yourself, is to get tested.

What are the symptoms of other STDs?

Many people do not have any symptoms. Those who do can have a variety of symptoms, including pain when urinating, discharge, blisters in the genital region, and more.

The only way to know for sure if you are infected is to see a medical professional.

Can I talk to a live person about HIV and other STDs?

Yes. In Texas, you can call 2-1-1 or visit 211Texas.org to find out where to get tested for HIV and other STDs. If you have other questions about HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, you can call 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636).

Where can I find out more information about HIV and other STDs?

In the resources section of this website, you can find fact sheets containing basic information on symptoms, transmission, and treatment for HIV and other STDs, as well as links to sites from around the country with more information about HIV and other STDs.

Testing and Treatment Questions

Where can I get tested?

In Texas, many counties have testing locations. Find one near you.

Why should I get tested for HIV?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate that 1 in 5 Americans living with HIV do not know they have it. Getting tested is the only sure way to know your HIV status.

If you test negative, you can take steps to stay that way. If you test positive, you can get treatment to protect your partners, stay healthy, and extend your life and enhance its quality.

Who should be tested for HIV?

If you have never been tested for HIV, you should be tested at least once. The CDC recommends that you test for HIV at least once a year if you do things that can increase your chances of getting HIV. These include:

  • Injecting drugs or steroids with used needles or works
  • Having sex for money or drugs
  • Having sex with an HIV-infected person
  • Having more than one sex partner since your last HIV test
  • Having a sex partner who has had other sex partners since your last HIV test

Talk to your health-care provider about how often you need to be tested for HIV.

Do I need to get tested for HIV if I’m pregnant?

Yes. Pregnant women should get tested for HIV at the first prenatal visit and during the third trimester of each pregnancy. Some pregnant women and their newborns may also need HIV testing at the time of birth.

Should I get tested for other STDs?

If you have STD symptoms, or if someone you’ve had sex with has an STD, you should get tested as soon as possible.

Because you can have an STD without having symptoms, you should talk to your health-care provider about STD testing if you’ve ever had unprotected sex with a partner whose STD status is not known.

Do I need to get tested for other STDs if I’m pregnant?

Yes. Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit and at birth. Without treatment, syphilis can cause major problems for the baby during pregnancy and at birth, including blindness, deafness, brain damage, and even death.

If caught early, syphilis can be cured before any of this happens. It is also a good idea to be tested for gonorrhea and chlamydia at your first prenatal visit.

How much does STD testing cost?

It depends on what tests you get and where you get them. Many public health clinics in Texas offer low-cost or free STD testing on a sliding scale basis (based on what you can afford). Be sure to ask about cost when you call to make an appointment.

Do I need my parents’ permission to get tested for STDs if I’m under 18?

In Texas, the ability of a minor* to consent to his or her own medical treatment is governed by Texas Family Code, Chapter 32, Section 32.003, “Consent to Treatment by Child.”

Under this law, a minor has the right to consent to the diagnosis and treatment of an infectious, contagious, or communicable disease that is reportable to the state health department. This includes HIV/AIDS, syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.

The law also gives health care providers discretion to notify parents or guardians of medical treatments given to or needed by a minor. Please check with your health care provider if you have questions on how he/she might exercise that discretion.

*Under Texas Family Code Chapter 101, Section 101.003, “child” or “minor” means a person under 18 years of age who is not and has not been married or who has not had the disabilities of minority removed for general purposes. This definition is applicable when reading Family Code Sec. 32.003 unless a provision in that section clearly indicates otherwise.

Don’t they test my blood for STDs and HIV when I give blood or have blood drawn for other medical tests?

No, ask for STD testing by name. You can’t assume you’re being tested for STDs just because you have blood drawn, give a urine sample, or have a Pap smear.

How do people talk about such personal stuff with a doctor?

Be honest with your health-care provider. You’re not going to shock him or her, and he or she is not going to judge you. If you’re uncomfortable asking your regular doctor for a test, consider getting tested at a public health clinic.

Can I get help finding and paying for HIV treatment?

Yes. The Texas HIV Medication Program (THMP) provides medication for the treatment of illnesses caused by HIV and other infections in HIV-infected individuals as prescribed by their doctor. Texans with HIV who meet income requirements may be eligible for the program. The THMP works with local pharmacies to provide medications to clients throughout the state. To learn more, visit the THMP website or call 1-800-255-1090 weekdays between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST. If you still have questions, contact the DSHS HIV/STD Program via e-mail at hivstd@dshs.texas.gov, or call us at (512) 533-3000.

last updated May 7, 2018