In much of the country, the number of HIV cases is stabilizing.
But that's not the case in Columbus. Our numbers are on the increase.
Columbus Public Health is offering a new, free program to help improve the Capital City’s sexual health.
Ricky Martinez was like so many in his early 20's: living young, wild, and worry-free.
"I was living in Charlotte, North Carolina. There was something to do every night of the week,” he said. "There was always a club open. We were just partying having fun."
And like so many his age, his carefree attitude spilled over into his sex life. "You just don't think about it. You're just living for the moment, or living to have fun. You don't think about what's going to happen in the future or the consequences of what you're doing at the time."
Reality hit hard with a phone call notifying him he was HIV positive. "I really didn't know what to think or what to do at that moment. I was just kind of stuck. And I just kind of froze."
"STI's are in our community. If you're engaging in sex, you are putting yourself at risk," says Dr. Audrey Regan, Director of Sexual Health Promotion at Columbus Public Health.
She says sexually transmitted diseases and infections - STD's and STI's - are on the rise in Columbus.
The population of most concern: young people.
"We're seeing youth who are engaging in higher risk behaviors and they don't know the status of their partners,” Regan said. “They have multiple partners, and aren't using condoms as much as we'd like."
That's why Columbus Public Health is launching a new "Take Care Down There" Sexual Health Clinic, offering free testing for anyone 13 and older.
"The HIV results will be given back rapid. So within 20 minutes, you should have your HIV results,” said Regan.
Ricky Martinez, now 27 and living with HIV, wishes he understood then what he does now. "You don't want to be the person responsible for why a person has to go through that," he said. "Knowing is the most important part."
The Sexual Health Clinics will be held every Monday and Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m., starting April 3, at Columbus Public Health on Parsons Avenue.
For more information on the clinics, visit the City of Columbus website