Amarillo accepts grant to track HIV/AIDS

by Larry Lemmons

NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas  HIV/AIDS continues to be a health concern for the Texas Panhandle.   The Amarillo Public Health Deparment says as many as thirty new people contract the virus every year in the region.

Tuesday the City Commission accepted a grant from the Texas Department of State Health Services.  $51, 636 will be used for HIV surveillance activities across the Texas Panhandle Region.  The grant supports the inveestigation, review and reporting of HIV/AIDS positive cases to the State Health Department.

The J.O. Wyatt Clinic is the City's first line of defense against HIV/AIDS.  The surveillance program discovers the number of cases and determines if services are being provided.  Kimberly Pride, the HIV Prevention Program Manager of the clinic says, "that helps to put money back into our community. Every six years they reevaluate and it helps to provide services to reach certain populations."

The City's Public Health Department says they see as many as 15 new cases of HIV/AIDS every year in Potter and Randall Counties.  They say no particular group of people are more susceptible locally, but nationally it's a different story. Pride says, "The burden of the disease lies in African-American males and females. They're disproportionately affected."

At the Texas Panhandle Family Planning and Health Center, they've already seen six new cases this year.  Cindy Coffelt, a Nurse Practitioner at the Texas Panhandle Family Planning and Health Center says, "We've had about half a dozen positives this year. Three of them have been in the young age group, in their early twenties, heterosexuals... We've had half in the older age group, about the mid to late forties, early fifties, and those are homosexual."

They test groups of people at various times of the year, hoping to get the word out about prevention.  Coffelt says, ""If you've got a condom on you're taking the precautions you need."