Trinn Suwannapha, via

Saturday is World AIDS Day. Here in Austin, the Department of Health and Human Services in holding a day long AIDS conference. This year’s focus is on how HIV is affecting young people in Travis County, among whom HIV infection is increasing.

Worldwide, deaths from AIDS are down since 2005. Rates of HIV infection are also falling. But HIV is on the rise among young people, including those in Travis County.

“In the last four or five years, we’ve seen a very sharp increase in the number of cases of HIV infection in among youth,” said Joe Barnes with Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services. “We define that as between 13 and 24.”

Amanda Mills, Centers for Disease Control

The San Antonio-based Texas Biomedical Research Institute has applied for a patent for a new genetically engineered HIV vaccine. This new vaccine would provide lifelong protection from the disease with a single dose.

The vaccine is designed to target the cells that line the body’s surface structures. which are the point of entry into the body in approximately 90 percent of HIV cases. Once HIV enters the body through these cells, it quickly spreads to the lymph nodes and other organs, where it replicates throughout the body. The new vaccine would stimulate the body’s outer layers and cells to generate cells that produce antibodies to HIV.

A financial shot in the arm is coming for people living with AIDS in Austin. As much as $5 million in federal funding is on the way, spread out over five years. But the federal funding comes as local AIDS assistance groups wrangle with funding cuts of their own. 

The announcement came at a city council meeting yesterday. The grant funds come from federal awards called Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, funds. For Austin that means about $1 million each year for two Austin non-profits, AIDS Services of Austin and Project Transitions. The money is intended to help people with HIV and AIDS with housing need – short-term rent and mortgage assistance, help with utilities and other related expenses. 

According to Josh Allen, executive director of Project Transitions, housing is an area of incredible need for Austin. “As quickly as we can move someone into housing, there are two other folks on the waiting list.”

This grant money comes at a time when Project Transitions is struggling to fill a $45,000 gap left by reduced funding from the United Way. In July, the United Way for Greater Austin eliminated $1.2 million in grants to local nonprofits. “We’re seeing it across the board generally with fund raising efforts,” says Allen. “Specifically, with grants and foundations. It’s just a much more competitive environment.”

The HIV epidemic in the U.S. started in 1981, mainly in major cities along the East and West Coasts.

The first reports were from Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco among gay and bisexual men. Within months, it was clear that injecting drug users were also getting the virus.

Even now, you can see the lingering geographic contours of how the epidemic unfolded.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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.

U.S. government spending to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries is also preventing death from other diseases, a new study finds.

Some experts worry the billions of dollars the United States spends to treat people with HIV in poor countries may crowd out prevention and treatment of other illnesses.

Photo by Graham via

Tomorrow is World AIDS Day. Since 1988, December 1st has been observed around the globe as a day to draw attention to the continuing battle against HIV and AIDS, as well as to those who've lost that battle.

According to Austin/Travis County Health and Human Services, about 200 people contract HIV in Central Texas each year. There are a handful of events around Austin Thursday, giving people a chance to learn about the struggles of living with HIV and also to honor those who have died of AIDS.

One all-day event, World AIDS Day: Austin Remembers, Austin Responds, will take place at the For the City Center at 500 E. St Johns Ave. from 8:30 am until about 9:00 pm. 

Antiretroviral drug illustration
Photo illustration courtesy Pigi Mazzoli

Here's a grim statistic to chew on this World AIDS Day: Austin has the third highest percentage of people living with HIV in Texas. We used to fourth, behind Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, respectively. But as of 2009, we've displaced San Antonio for the third spot.

Here are the HIV infection rates from 2009, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.  

Photo courtesy of Sully Pixel,

World AIDS Day

Today is World AIDS Day. People around the world will be raising awareness of the disease and remembering those who have died from it. NPR reports on a new drug that appears to help prevent HIV infection in men. Texas Public Radio's David Martin Davies reports new Texas research shows Hispanic men may be more vulnerable to an AIDS related cancer called Kaposi's sarcoma.