By Alicia Lacy
Killeen Daily Herald
Janet Cates notices the stigma associated with HIV.
Because of that stigma and a feeling of "invincibility," many people aren't tested and the virus continues to spread, she said.
Today is National HIV Testing Day. The National Association of People with AIDS started the testing day June 27, 1995, to promote early diagnosis of the virus.
The program manager for Central Texas Support Services, Cates said the organization does not host many events because of a lack of response from the community.
The Central Texas Support Services is the HIV/AIDS and STD service agency for the Killeen and Temple area. The organization provides direct services for HIV positive individuals, medical case management, testing and education.
Cates said the organization sets up at health fairs and visits help centers and jails to educate people about the virus.
The Texas Department of State and Human Services latest numbers from 2008 state one in 387 people in Texas were living with HIV or AIDS.
In addition, between 2000 and 2007, HIV positive women gave birth to about 2,800 babies.
According to the Texas Department of State and Human Services, in 2008, there were 63,019 reported cases of individuals living in the state with either HIV or AIDS. The Killeen-Temple area accounted for 404 of those cases with 321 in Bell County and 42 in Coryell County. Cates said the reported numbers do not include active-duty military.
"When looking at statistics, you're looking at people who have tested, but not the people who are healthy and don't know they have the virus," Cates said. Many
people say, "I don't think it could happen to me," she added.
Working with individuals in the area, Cates said there are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS that puts people at greater risk of contracting the virus. Often young people think they're "invincible," she said.
Cates said many people think they are automatically tested during emergency room visits, but that's not the case - a test has to be requested.
Children becoming sexually active are at a greater risk of contracting the virus because of lack of education, she said.
Texas is an abstinence-only state, so education is not provided for school-age children about sexually transmitted diseases.
"People still don't believe (HIV) can be transmitted through oral and anal sex," she said. "Local women think if you have AIDS you can't be in the military, but that's a misconception and misunderstanding."
Because of those misconceptions, the spread of the virus continues.
"The infection rate is not going down. It's out there," Cates said. "It's not just one specific group, so people need to protect themselves and get tested."
Exposure to the virus
HIV is spread through bodily fluids like blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, breast milk, vaginal fluid and rectal mucous through sexual contact, pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding, injection drug use, blood transfusions or organ transplants, according to www.aids.gov.
According to the state DSHS, the most common exposure to the virus is among homosexual men.
In addition to the spread of the virus, Cates said she's noticed an increase in syphilis cases in the area.
Contact Alicia Lacy at email@example.com or (254) 501-7559.