Rising Number of Basin Teens With AIDS, Looking to FDA-Approved HIV Drug

By Jen Kastner
NewsWest 9

PERMIAN BASIN- AIDS has no biases or prejudices. It will attack anyone. Right now, it's striking hard in the Basin.

Dr. Satish Morchela with Medical Center Hospital tells NewsWest 9, "I feel the awareness for safe sex has really started sliding downhill."

The rate at which people are now diagnosed is climbing, and mostly amongst teenagers, some as young as 14-years-old.

Preston Chancellor is the Development Director for the Midland/Odessa Area AIDS Support Group (MAAS).

He says, "It's in our high schools and it's going down to the younger age groups and that's what's troubling to us."

MAAS sees at least two new clients each month and those are just the ones that come in for help.

"Of course, young people think they're bulletproof and invincible and they're not," Chancellor said.

A drug just approved by the FDA this week could offer new hope in the world of AIDS and HIV. It's called Truvada. It's actually been used for a few years to help HIV patients manage their sicknesses. Now, it's going to also be used for non-infected people who are at a high risk for contraction because they have a partner with HIV.

"The cost is high. The cost ranges anywhere between $1,000 to $3,000 each month," Morchela said.

Skeptics say that high cost keeps it out-of-reach for many patients.

Additionally, there are still several unknowns.

"Even though it's FDA-approved, will doctors use it? Will the state approve it? Will the federal government allow it to be in the insurance system? So, it's a mixed bag," Chancellor said.

Critics argue it may promote more sexual promiscuity. But, for now, only time will tell.