This article is part of the Proud U series, a component of U=U & U, Pride Media’s year-long initiative to get the word out about HIV prevention, treatment, and testing, especially the groundbreaking news that people living with HIV who have undetectable viral loads can no longer transmit HIV.
Finding resources in the greater Houston, Texas, area to help get you and keep you safe, happy, and healthy has never been easier. Here’s why that’s important.
If you are newly diagnosed, there are local organizations that will immediately link you to care and get you on treatment, while offering financial assistance for meds and other immediate needs.
Once a person living with HIV receives treatment, most can achieve viral suppression, also known as being “undetectable.” When a person is undetectable, there is zero chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner (even wthout the use of condoms). Also known as U=U, the term is now a globally-accepted scientific consensus based on years of extensive research.
"I love how empowering it is to experience those of us living with HIV publicly to affirm each other through various U=U campaigns,” Mike Webb, president of the Houston GLBT Political Caucus and Community Relations for Harris County, says to Plus. “It is important for those of us living with HIV to learn more on how we individually can contribute to a world where we eventually have zero new HIV transmissions.”
Houston also has a large amount of supportive services for all people living with HIV — including mental health, substance recovery, and housing — as well as fun and inclusive events throughout the year for anyone who wants to join the fight to end HIV and its associated stigma.
If you’re HIV-negative, it’s important to think about prevention. Condoms are still a highly effective method of STI prevention. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a strategy that when practiced appropriately makes it virtually impossible to contract HIV. In the U.S., the only FDA-approved form of PrEP is a once-daily pill called Truvada that is over 90 percent effective in preventing the transmission of HIV. However, it doesn’t prevent against other STIs. Truvada is a great option for many people who, according to the CDC, may be at higher risk of acquiring HIV, such as sexually active gay and bi men, trans women, sex workers, or IV drug users.
Below is a list of some key resources in the greater Houston area that can provide access to PrEP, free HIV and STI testing, linkage to care, housing, mental health services, and even support for family and caregivers.
Established in 1982, at the very onset of the AIDS epidemic, AIDS Foundation Houston was not only the first AIDS service organization in Texas, but one of the first in the nation. Because it is so well established, it has an amazing amount of free services, programs, and events for people living with HIV — including free testing, counseling and other mental health services, substance abuse programs, housing, food and transportation assistance, and access to PrEP. For serodiscordant partners, they offer easy-to-understand online guides to PrEP (both in English and Spanish): WhyPrEP.org, and PrEPtoPreventHIV.org. Since 1996, AFH has put on Camp Hope, a positive reinforcement and life skills building summer camp program for kids ages 7 through 16 who are living with HIV.
AIDS Foundation Houston's Camp Hope for poz kids.
Don’t forget Houston is about fun, too. So have some while you’re here. Rich's signature drinks have been known to bring down the house and their dance floor is always in high gear on Saturday nights.
Legacy Community Health is an LGBTQ-affirming, federally-qualified health center offering HIV screening and treatment, mental health services, transgender care programs, and a full range of low-to-no-cost heath care services (including vision, dental, and ob-gyn).
“Everyone in the Greater Houston Area should definitely checkout Legacy Community Health’s mSociety program,” says Houston activist Mike Webb, “which focuses on HIV prevention and empowerment for Black LGBTQ+ community members in the Houston area.” Legacy’s mSociety is a program designed to build a safe, affirming, and healthy community that empowers young gay men of color, ages 18 through 29.
You’ve got to eat and once a year, this annual event has given good reason. Since 1991, AIDS Foundation Houston has presented Dine Out For Life, a fundraiser in which the city’s top restaurants donate proceeds per plates served during the event.
Dine Out raises much-needed funds for the 28,000 men, women, and children in Houston who are living with HIV and another estimated 20 percent who are unaware of their status.
The Montrose Center is the area’s major LGBTQ community resource center and offers a plethora of free and affordable queer- and trans-affirming mental and physical health care services. Its HIV services include counseling, group therapy, a substance abuse recovery program, housing assistance, case management, and interpreter services. They also have an array of wellness programs for people living with HIV (many of which are specifically designed for transgender folks), including a fitness room, cyber center, and emergency food pantry.
Officially called the HIV/STD and Viral Hepatitis Prevention Mobile Clinic, this mobile clinic offers free testing and linkage to numerous HIV-related resources. You can check the location and operation hours of the clinic on a live calendar, as well as access a long list of other local HIV resources.
This community-wide event produced by AIDS Foundation Houston attracts thousands of supporters each spring. The 1.8-mile (3K) walk benefits local HIV organizations who are helping reduce HIV transmissions while also providing vital social services to Houstonians living with the virus. Funds raised from the Walk support over 90,000 Houstonians each year, providing them with education, pediatric programs, housing, food, medical care, counseling, and job training.
One could call this fun-filled event the best little fundraiser in Texas and if you’re up for a 3-hour round trip from Houston, you should consider it. November 22, the 2nd Annual Red Ball will be held in nearby Corpus Christi and has pre-selected five HIV organizations as beneficiaries, each from different areas of Texas. Founded by JP Trevino, Hosted by Red Cause Inc. (creator of the Ball) is a newer non-profit with a mission to assist HIV groups across the state of Texas.
Find out more about U=U, and what that means for you, at our U=U&U channel.