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World AIDS Day Marked By Awareness In North Texas

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) - In recognition of World AIDS Day, Dallas County Health and Human Services offered free HIV/AIDS testing.

More than 16,000 people are living with HIV and AIDS in the Dallas area.  And health care workers here know it's still a growing problem.  "We have the highest infection rate of new HIV cases in the State of Texas," said Zach Thompson with Dallas County Health and Human Services. "The predominant number of new cases is 13-24 year old age group, and that is a concern."

Tarrant County showcased its HIV/AIDS outreach programs to honor the day.  With nearly 5,000 people living with HIV or AIDS in its service area, the programs are in great demand.

"People who are diagnosed they go through a hard time and they have to alter their life and without the services that me and other people here provide then they're left out on their own," said Skye Newkirk, an outreach worker.

The Tarrant County Health Department oversees AIDS funding for 38-counties.  But the department lost nearly half-a-million dollars in state and federal funding in just the past six months.

Ironically, that could be because more people are living with HIV, but not developing AIDS.  "The funding is less," said Margie Drake who is the HIV Grants Manager for Tarrant County Public Health. "A lot of the time the funding is on a formula basis where parts of the formula include how many AIDS cases we have and we don't have as many people transitioning into AIDS."

In Tarrant County and other Texas agencies the message on World AIDS Day is two fold; The needs of HIV patients are still great, and so is the need for HIV prevention education.

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