Dallas, TX – On this World AIDS Day, the Dallas County number of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases is rising. KERA's Bill Zeeble has more on the worrisome trend, and some efforts to reverse it.
There was a time, says Mark Brown - not his real name - when a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS was a death sentence. Brown, who is gay and in his 40s, says it was not that long ago.
Brown: I lost a lot of my friends in their 20s. I also lost a partner of eight and a half years. Most of the time the treatment was worse than the disease.
But over time, treatments improved. Brown was slow to get tested, fearing there was no help. But since his diagnosis nine years ago, his stringent drug regimen has helped keep him healthy. Yet he also sees the downside. He fears new Dallas AIDS cases are rising because the disease seems so manageable.
Brown: It does look that way. There are tons of ads in our gay rags. "Take this one pill, one pill a day." That's not the case for me. I take four different prescriptions, seven pills a day.
Brown says insurance co-pays alone cost $3400 a year, plus doctor visits, plus blood tests many times a year, plus the fear that any little infection could turn deadly. AIDS advocate Rafael McDonnell, with Resource Center Dallas, says of 908 new Dallas County HIV/AIDS cases last year, a quarter of them involved men and women under the age of 25.
McDonnell: Kids are having sex at younger ages. Another thing is that I think there's that invincibility factor. When you're that young you think you can do anything, and I think, well, "It's never going to happen to me."
Well, says McDonnell, it can happen to you. And he says in Dallas County, it's happening more and more. Numbers of diagnosed cases over the past two years or so have been rising, not declining, as in previous years. McDonnell says anyone sexually active, with any concern whatever, should get tested.