Health officials are trying to get people to #KnowYourStatus

Bexar County HIV, AIDS rates higher than Texas average

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio health advocates are kicking off an effort to help reduce the number of people living with AIDS or HIV. The University of Texas Health San Antonio is partnering with local organizations to launch the “Fast Track Cities” initiative, a global effort to reach a 90-90-90 target.

The idea is to get 90 percent of people with HIV to know their status, 90 percent of those people on treatment and 90 percent to those to reach the undetectable viral load at which they cannot transmit the virus.

Metro Health medical director, Dr. Junda Woo says there are about 360 new people diagnosed with HIV in the county each year. “It’s worse than the Texas average, it’s more than we feel we should have,” she said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the number of new HIV infections rose 12 percent between 2014 and 2015 in Bexar County.  

“It’s mostly younger people, people under 30 years of age,” Woo said. She points to the ongoing stigma in the community.

Prince Carlo gets tested routinely. He said the issue is much more taboo in the U.S. than in his native country of Italy. “It’s always good to know. It doesn’t matter if you’re gay or not,” he said. “It’s good to know because you can protect your loved ones.”

Carlo said he is not surprised that the trend is among young men, whom he says don’t want to talk about sickness, “It’s going to be less attractive, that’s why people don’t say it. But I think it’s important for people to be less afraid.”

The San Antonio AIDS Foundation has been working for decades to treat AIDS, educate and prevent it in the community.

Ken Slavin, the vice president of communications, said the increase is alarming and disturbing.

“It makes us more focused on getting to the root of the problem, which is education and prevention,” he said. But in order to reach the male millennials most affected, their outreach efforts have to change.

“It’s evident to us we need to ramp it up and we need to ramp it up to make it relevant for today's communication styles,” he said pointing to changes in the foundations' social media and the way they advertise its message.

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