AUSTIN -- Twenty years ago, you couldn't escape hearing stories about HIV and AIDS and how it was devastating communities. Now, you barely hear about HIV and AIDS at all. That lack of dialogue has some worried, especially since cases are on the rise nationally and in Travis County.
Paul Scott was just 24 when doctors diagnosed him with HIV in 1987. Three months after that diagnosis, he developed AIDS.
“I thought that I only had six months to live. I was, of course, scared to death,” Scott said. “I made my preparations, said goodbye to my family. They said goodbye to me.”
With the help of doctors and dozens of medications, Scott lived and is now executive director of AIDS Services of Austin. He worries about the rise of HIV and AIDS cases in Central Texas, especially among young people.
“This younger generation hasn't seen their group of friends and peers die from this as we saw in the early 80s and 90s, and I think now people feel like it's not something that can happen to them, or it's something that can be easily treated,” Scott said.
In Travis County in 2011, doctors diagnosed 242 people with HIV; 124 were diagnosed with AIDS.
Currently 3,763 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Travis County.
In 2011, there were more than 69,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Texas. An estimated 17,000 more have HIV but don't know they're infected.
Between 2005 and 2011, the number of people known to have HIV in Texas went up 34 percent.
“What we expect to see is in 2012 is a significant increase over the previous years as well,” Scott said.
According to AIDS Services of Austin, 75 percent of new HIV cases being diagnosed in Central Texas are occurring in Travis County.
Health experts say men having sex with men, intravenous drug users and minorities make up the majority of new cases.
“Obviously, you need to have conversations if you're dating or in a relationship to protect others and to protect yourself,” Scott said.
AIDS Services of Austin does free HIV testing. Click here for more information.