Harris Health System has a long history of treating and caring for patients with HIV/AIDS, even before researchers could identify the disease. In the summer of 1981, patients suffering from a variety of infections like Kaposi’s sarcoma, a skin disorder commonly associated with cancer, began showing up at Jefferson Davis Hospital. Baffled by this unknown disease’s deadly results, doctors and nurses saw many of their patients die.
The condition was eventually identified as AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome), a disease that attacks the body’s immune system, making it difficult to fight infection. The trigger for the disease is Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). While there is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, Harris Health System’s expertise has helped thousands of HIV/AIDS patients manage their illness and, much like chronic sufferers of diabetes or heart disease, live long, productive lives.
In 1989, Harris Health opened Thomas Street Health Center, the first freestanding facility dedicated to outpatient HIV/AIDS care in the nation. The center is the cornerstone of all HIV/AIDS care available to Harris County residents.
Since passage of the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act by Congress in 1990, Harris Health has received funding under Titles I, III, and IV. Today, these programs are spread throughout the community to provide a broad range of services for people living with HIV/AIDS.
Supported by a network of several health centers and inpatient care at Ben Taub Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson Hospital, HIV/AIDS patients receive the latest medications and treatments available because of the collaboration of top physicians and researchers from Baylor College of Medicine and The University of Texas Medical School at Houston (UTHealth). This collaboration has led to successful initiatives including the Women’s HIV Program, which has more than a 99 percent success rate in helping pregnant HIV-positive women deliver uninfected newborns.
HIV Prevention ProgramThe Thomas Street Health Center HIV Prevention Program (PrEP) provides HIV counseling and testing, screening and treatment of sexually transmitted infections and HIV prevention. Our clients include sero-discordant couples (one partner is HIV positive, and one is HIV negative), clients who have multiple sexual partners and intravenous drug users. Patients can be referred by a primary care provider, or through our walk-in HIV testing program. In addition to Harris Health eligibility, we accept private insurance, Medicare and Medicaid for payment. The HIV Prevention Program sees patients from 8 a.m.-noon on Fridays.