BELL COUNTY (December 1, 2012)--Bell County is ranked top 20 in the number of HIV infection cases, compared to the 200+ counties in Texas, according to Scott & White's Infectious Disease Division.
"HIV is the virus that cause the immune deficiency in your body, and it makes your immune system more susceptible to infections," said Rhonda Wallace, a Scott & White nurse in the Infectious Disease Division.
"AIDS is what happens when everything takes over and you end up passing away."
Texas is ranked no. 3 for the most reported HIV cases, and in Central Texas, the risk of getting infected with HIV is even greater, with numbers almost doubling.
"In our department alone, we've seen as many as three new HIV-positive diagnoses come in within a week, and that's almost unheard of," Wallace said.
"We used to have one or two a month, and now we're having three a week."
Wallace and others who work with HIV and AIDS patients say not enough people are getting tested.
"People don't see this as a death sentence anymore, but they see this as something they can take meds for and clear up like a cold or the flu," Wallace said.
Today, local social services organizations, Fort Hood and Scott & White teamed up to educate the public and offer free HIV screenings at the Killeen Mall.
It took as little as 20 minutes to know whether someone's infected with HIV.
Those working toward bringing down the high number of HIV and AIDS infections say the community should continue working on spreading awareness, not the virus.