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HIV Cases Among Young Males Growing Locally

Updated: Thursday, July 24 2014, 09:50 PM CDT
SPRINGFIELD -- According to the CDC, between 2002 and 2011 just under 500,000 people were diagnosed with HIV. That is a decrease by about a third, but one demographic is seeing a sharp increase both nationwide and closer to home which has local doctors concerned.

"Know you status, and know the person you are intimate with," said Dr Jonna Colley, Executive Director at The Phoenix Center in Springfield.

After the release of new numbers from the Center for Disease Control, she says it shows a startling increase in HIV among young males. In particular, male sex with male.

"We have a majority of our HIV positive test results are 20 somethings," said Cooley.

23-year-old Charles Harston is one of the latest victims of the virus. He was diagnosed Christmas Eve last year.

"When I got the news it was heartbreaking, definitely heartbreaking and I really didn't know what to do. I was just stuck," said Harston.

Harston says he doesn't know when or how he contracted the virus. The new CDC numbers don't come as a surprise for him.

"I know a lot of people that don't like to use safe sex," said Harston.

Nationally, HIV cases dropped 33% from 2002 to 2011, but in males ages 13 to 24 cases jumped 133%.

In Illinois, the number of cases among all males has remained steady since 2005.

"There is kinda the mindset among young people that it's not really a big deal. That if you contract HIV there are pills out there you can take, and people live. They don't know the that history or that component," said Dr. Cooley.

Although being HIV positive can be considered a negative, Harston says it's changed his outlook on life for the better.

"This is my reason to live. Now I look at life as why do I have a reason to live? Because something is trying to take it from me," said Harston.

The Phoenix Center in Springfield offers free HIV testing and even provides housing for some of those individuals with the virus.

Executive Director Dr. Jonna Cooley says the number of young males needing assistance has grown over the last year. Right now they are assisting 5 young people under the age of 25, something she says has never happened before.HIV Cases Among Young Males Growing Locally

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