Oscar Lopez is an educator with the Valley Aids Council which services patients from Cameron County to Corpus Christi. He said treatment for HIV has improved vastly in the past 20, years allowing people infected with the virus to live longer lives. Unfortunately, Lopez said, the most recent trend is that more teens, as early as age 13, are testing HIV positive.
"You would think we TMre more progressive, it's 2012 (so) we can talk about this issue, Lopez said, but the reality is there's not a lot of youth who are receiving proper sex education. A lot of us focus on abstinence only, which works for a lot of youth, but not for all youth."
Lopez said the reasons for this increase vary from young people having unprotected sex, multiple partners, being pressured into having sex, or not knowing how to protect themselves.
Lopez said all 15 cases of HIV in people 13 to 24 years of age, detected in the past 5 months, are Hispanic teens. He adds culture may also be playing a role in the rise.
"Latinos in general, culturally are already very conservative people when it comes to talking about sexuality, Lopez said. It's hard for parents to talk about this at home, when those same parents were teenagers when they had their children also and didn't get sex education."
Lopez said it is also getting tougher to go into the school systems and talk to students about puberty and sexuality. He said that in larger cities where there is only one large school district, sex educators only have to get permission and support from one entity to go into the schools and teach students about sex, HIV and AIDS.
Here, VAC educators have to deal with multiple districts, and educators said they are simply not getting invites into the schools. "Very few school systems actually have appropriate sex education, so the school systems are relying on the parents and a lot of parents are not comfortable talking about this," Lopez said.
People from age 13 to 24 can visit any Valley Aids Council location and get tested for free, and without parental consent. Information is kept confidential.
Harlingen418 E. Tyler Ave., Suite B956-428-2653
Brownsville1338 E. 8th St.956-547-6865
McAllen601 N. McColl, Suite B956-668-1155