HIV and STI Screening and Treatment
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles offers free, confidential testing and counseling for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), including human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Our HIV Program is designed for adolescents and young adults. We provide comprehensive screening, prevention and treatment for people ages 12-24.
Youth ages 13-24 account for about 20% of new HIV cases each year. But fewer than half of these adolescents and young adults are aware of their HIV status. Knowing your status is critical for optimizing your health. Left untreated, HIV can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). But with prompt and ongoing care, people with HIV can live long, healthy lives.
HIV and STI Services at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles
You can count on us for supportive, inclusive HIV and STI care. Our services include:
- HIV and STI testing: We provide rapid HIV testing with same-day results and STI screening with results within 7 days. Your results are completely confidential. Our staff provides sex-positive counseling services and connects you with other services based on the support you request.
- HIV prevention: If you do not have HIV, we help you access preventive care. We offer health education and preventive medication to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Our PrEP Navigator helps identify the best prevention options for you. Learn more about HIV Prevention (PrEP and PEP).
- HIV and STI care: Anyone who tests positive for HIV or another STI can receive treatment at CHLA. Our HIV Program offers antiretroviral therapy (ART) to adolescents and young adults with HIV. Following your medication regimen is necessary to stay healthy. We help you take your medication as prescribed by providing holistic support and removing barriers to care.
- Supplemental support: Our services go beyond medical care. We offer counseling and health education to help you cope with your status and make informed choices. Peer-led groups let you connect with other people your age who are also getting HIV or STI care. And we work to make it easier for you to get care by offering care coordination, emergency assistance, housing support, transportation assistance and more. Explore our HIV Patient Resources.
- Testing incentives: Adolescents and young adults are less likely to get tested and receive treatment than adults, but we aim to change that. We offer incentives such as gift cards to youth who get tested for HIV or STIs every 3 months.
Frequently Asked Questions About HIV and STI Testing and Treatment
Who can get HIV or STI testing and treatment at CHLA?
California state law ensures confidential access to HIV and STI testing and treatment for adolescents ages 12 and up. That means if you are 12 or older, you can receive care with or without consent from your parents. Children younger than 12 can receive care with parental consent.
What is HIV testing?
An HIV screening test shows if a person has HIV. The three main types of HIV test include:
- HIV antibody/antigen test: This is one of the most common types of HIV test. The test looks for antigens and antibodies in blood. Antigens are foreign substances that trigger an immune response. After exposure to bacteria or viruses, the immune system creates antibodies to target and bind to the antigens. Antigens appear in the blood before antibodies. This test can typically identify HIV 2-6 weeks after infection.
- HIV antibody test: This test looks for HIV antibodies in blood or saliva. It takes time for the body to produce antibodies, so it takes 3-12 weeks after exposure for an antibody test to identify an HIV infection.
- Nucleic acid test (NAT): Also called an HIV viral load test, a NAT looks for the human immunodeficiency virus in blood. This test can identify an HIV infection sooner than antibody or antibody/antigen tests. It can also show how much virus is present.
What do test results mean?
A negative result means you don’t have HIV. A positive result means you have HIV and should seek further care.
Should I get tested for HIV?
Yes. Knowing your status allows you to make informed decisions. If the test result is negative, simple preventive measures can help you remain HIV negative. If the test result is positive, it is important to get treatment to manage your condition. With treatment, you will remain healthy and will also help to prevent the spread of HIV to others. Learn about undetectable = untransmittable status.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that everyone ages 13-64 get tested for HIV at least once. And people at higher risk for HIV should test more frequently.
You may be at higher risk for HIV infection if you:
- Are a male who has sex with other males
- Have another STI
- Have sex without a condom
- Use needles to inject drugs
What is STI testing?
STI tests diagnose a variety of sexually transmitted infections. STIs spread through sexual contact, including vaginal, oral and anal sex. Left untreated, some STIs can cause severe long-term health problems. Since STIs don’t always cause symptoms, the CDC recommends routine screening tests for people at risk of developing STIs.
The most common methods for STI testing include:
- Blood tests
- Swab tests
- Urine tests
Should I get an STI test?
The CDC recommends testing for people at higher risk of STIs. Among adolescents and young adults, higher-risk groups include:
- Anyone who has unprotected sex
- Males who have sex with other males
- People who have sex with multiple people
- Pregnant people
Where can I get an HIV or STI test?
You can get free HIV and STI testing at CHLA or at one of the following partner agencies:
Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Youth HIV/STI Testing Program
3250 Wilshire Blvd, 3rd Floor, Suite 300
Los Angeles, CA 90010
What is antiretroviral therapy?
HIV is a retrovirus. Antiretroviral (ARV) medications prevent the human immunodeficiency virus from making copies of itself, which reduces your HIV viral load. There are many HIV treatment options that include all the ARV drugs needed for effective treatment in a single pill taken once daily. These regimens are called antiretroviral therapy (ART).
All people with HIV should take ART, regardless of age, race, sexual identity or health. Taking ART correctly is critical for managing HIV and preventing symptoms. When taken as prescribed, ART can help you achieve a low viral load, or even undetectable status.
What is undetectable = untransmittable status?
Undetectable status is when the HIV viral load in the body is so low that it doesn’t show up on viral load tests. The lower your viral status, the less damage to your immune system, and the less likely you are to develop AIDS. Thanks to ART, many people with HIV enjoy good health and never get AIDS.
Achieving undetectable status is important for staying healthy, eliminating symptoms and preventing transmission. Undetectable = untransmittable (U = U) means that if your viral load is undetectable, you will not transmit HIV through sex. Learn more about U = U status at pleaseprepme.org.