by Nick Lawton
PERMIAN BASIN - Across Texas and across the Basin, more and more young people are getting infected with HIV.
The Texas Department of State Health Services recently released surveillance reports and the numbers over the last four years are alarming.
Here's how it breaks down.
Back in 2007, there were only 213 cases of HIV in teens across the state.
Three years later, in 2010, that number increased to 3,223 for teens and people in their early 20's.
Add in people in their 30's and we're looking at 14,879 young people in 2010.
State officials said it could be that more young people are getting tested or that they're having sex without asking each other the right questions or using the right protection.
"It could be that people are getting tested earlier and are more likely to get diagnosed, but I don't think that we can depend on that," Jeff Hitt, HIV Prevention Manager for the Texas Department of State Health Services, said. "We need to keep our focus on what's happening with young people."
The increase has touched West Texas too, including the son of Basin Assistance Services Team Leader, Renue Batula.
"He was 19 years old and he was diagnosed with it two months after he graduated," she said. "We are seeing more and more younger people in our area that are being newly diagnosed. If they've done something that could put them at risk, they do need to be tested."
To cut down these numbers, Basin Assistance Services will begin the new year working with schools and colleges to emphasize testing and the proper medical care if they're HIV positive.
They'll be emphasizing to young people the dates of all HIV awareness days and opening up a medical clinic in their facility to treat those testing positive.
"One of the keys to curbing further spread of HIV is going to be to get people diagnosed and then to get those people into effective treatment," Hitt said.
"That can really slow down the transmission of this disease," Batula said. "If we have people out there that are not taking their meds properly and have high viral loads, they are definitely way more infectious."
Basin Assistance Services in Odessa provides HIV education as well as treatment for those who test positive for it.
Again, they stress that to stop the spread, if you believe you may have it, you need to be tested and begin treatment if you test positive to help stop the infection in yourself and in others.