High STD Cases Prompts Local Group to Focus on Students

By: Sarah Snyder
NewsWest 9

MIDLAND - The numbers are flying off the charts.  State officials say the number of HIV and AIDS cases here in the Basin are taking a big toll, and it's taking the biggest toll on teens.

"We have more today than we've ever ever had," Judy Warren, Director of Midand Area AIDS Support, said.

Midland Area AIDS Support, or MAAS, is working with more West Texans dealing with sexually transmitted diseases than ever before.

"When I started this, we had two or three. Today, we have 176 I believe, and we get new clients all the time," Warren said.

Young people ages 15-24 make up half of their group.

"My clients are everywhere," Warren said. "They're serving you food in restaurants, they're standing next to you in the grocery store, the video store. You're around so many people that don't even know they have it yet because they're not sick yet."

Renue is one of those clients. Her son was diagnosed just two months after he graduated from high school in Midland.

"The day we found out it was pretty crushing to say the least," Renue Batula said. "To sit in front of people and have them tell you your son has a disease that could possibly kill him was a pretty devastating thing for a mother."

Since that time she's made it her mission to visit classrooms.

"We've got to make our community aware that it is here in Midland, TX, that it's in Odessa," Batula said. "It's not just happening in the big cities."

"Even though we have the new medicines, people are still dying of Aids," Warren said. "A year and a half ago, we lost five people in three months - young people right here."

But because of the high number of clients they've decided to expand. Now they're targeting the parents.

"They don't realize the danger their kids are in," Warren said. "They need to be educated so they can bring this home the way they want to or choose to."

Judy Warren started MAAS almost 20 years ago - a decision that came out of tragedy.

"I watched my brother for years before he died go completely blind slowly, lose his mind slowly and so many other things," Warren said. "We're trying to save the young people's lives. We believe we're making a difference because they write us letters and they tell us - you saved my life."

"It's not a gay disease," Batula said. "It's not whether you're rich or poor or black or white or polka dotted. It doesn't matter. This disease does not discriminate."

NewsWest 9 also spoke with the Texas Department of Health Services to find out where the Permian Basin sits state-wide. By the end of last year, 457 West Texans were counted with HIV or AIDS. About five thousand Texans are diagnosed with HIV or Aids each year, and of those, about 1,000 of them die. 

Our local branch says they're constantly working with area medical providers hoping to remind people here in the Basin to get tested before it's too late.