El Paso among top 10 counties for recorded HIV cases in Texas

El Paso among top 10 counties for...

EL PASO, Texas - Health and Human Services released the latest data for HIV cases across the State of Texas and El Paso is among the top ten.

There were 93 HIV diagnoses in El Paso during 2016, the latest data yearly available. The top five counties ranged from more than 240 cases to 1,205 cases.

"It is not really surprising," Elias Gonzalez with the Department of Public Health said. "In general, we usually are among the top 10 based on our size alone."

In 2016, there were 2,061 people living with HIV in El Paso. That figure led to El Paso being ranked sixth in the list. Travis County, with 242 HIV positive residents, was ranked fifth. Harris County leads the state with 1,205 HIV positive residents.

"HIV is a huge issues because not a lot of people test and it's not something that people do very often or regularly," Gonzalez said.

HIV symptoms mimic Flu-like symptoms - sore throat, swollen lymph nodes and a fever. Gonzalez says a lot of people will think they have the flu and will not get tested for the virus. "A lot of people don't know they have HIV until they start feeling sick and go to the emergency room and get tested, but at that point, it's really late in the game and their body has been damaged a lot by HIV."

Gonzalez recommends testing for anyone who is at risk every three to six months or at least once a year.

"Stigma is a huge issue," Gonzalez said, "a lot of people don't want to get tested because of fear since they don't want to be seen as potentially HIV positve."

The City of El Paso offers free, confidential and rapid HIV,  syphilis and Hepatitis C testing for anyone 13-years- old or above and without parental consent. "If that test comes back positive we try and link them up with th agencies that provide care," Gonzalez said.

Officials say those at risk include individuals who have unprotected anal and vaginal sex and those who inject drugs and share needles. 

LINK: Information on free HIV testing