Local officials are warning of an increase in HIV infections in Austin’s adolescent population.
“We’ve identified just in the last few months about five newly confirmed HIV cases,” Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services Medical Director Dr. Philip Huang tells KUT News. “By comparison, all of last year in Travis County, we had six cases.”
Dr. Huang couldn’t speak to specific cases, but cited Centers for Diseases Control statistics regarding sexually-active adolescents: some 52 percent of Texas high school students have had sex at least once, and only 54 percent of sexually active students used a condom the last time they had sex.
“With adolescents, there does seem to be some confusion,” Dr.Huang says. “Some kids don’t consider oral or anal sex as sexual contact. So there probably does to be more education that that certainly does put them at risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted disease also.”
About three-quarters of Texas school districts have abstinence-only sexual education programs, according to a recent survey of Texas Education Agency data. Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services launched a sex ed by text message program this spring in an attempt to make scientifically accurate information more easily available.
Another potential reason for the uptick in HIV cases has to do with decreased vigilance. “There are now treatments, and so people think, ‘Oh, this isn’t as serious.’ But it is,” Huang says. “There is no cure for HIV or AIDS .”
The city’s RBJ Health Center offers confidential diagnosis and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases.