JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Duval County has one of the highest HIV/AIDS rates in Florida, and a recent report also ranks the county as one of the highest in the country. It's a startling statistic. Jacksonville ranks third for the most cases of HIV/AIDS in the country, just behind Miami and Baton Rouge -- that's according to study by the CDC and the Census Bureau.
Tonight, one man living with the disease spoke to us.
He says more needs to be done to prevent this and he doesn't want to see the River City spiral out of control. When the topic of HIV/AIDS enters a conversation, Justin Bell often hears "you don't look like you you've got it it."
But he is living with Aids- since October of 2006. It all started with a bad cough and led to a coma.
"The prognosis was 90 days and I had a little bit of money," Bell said. And he spent it all for fear his time was up. But his fight for his life not without some struggles. He says he lost many friends who don't want to be associated with him.
Now he needs 23 pills a day to live.
"I can't hold a full time job because of the condition. I get worn out fairly easily," Bell said. He quit his sales job, now he's dedicated his life to beating the disease and helping others in Duval County.
"HIV in Jacksonville is a big problem," Audrey Gardner with the Northeast Florida AIDS network said. "There is lack of awareness. People don't want to talk about it, which leads to stigma and discrimination. There is lack of funding which makes it difficult to care for people living with HIV and AIDS."
Education and homelessness also play a role. According to the health department 2500 people are living with HIV in Duval County -- 3300 with AIDS. Men account for 76 percent of new infections.
According to the AIDS Network it's important that those infected know there are people here in Jacksonville who can help.
They say you shouldn't be ashamed, but get tested.
Available Resources in Duval County: