(WMC-TV) - The infection rate of AIDS and HIV among young people is growing and more than half of those infected do not know they have the disease.
While AIDS and HIV infection rates appear to be increasing among young people, one woman living with the virus wants at risk youth to be aware of the dangers.
Nicole Becton-Odum has been living with HIV for 16 years.
"I'm a victim of rape and I got a call that the person who raped me had died and I need to get tested for HIV," said Becton-Odum.
The newlywed and mother of a healthy 2-month-old baby is not surprised by a report by government health officials which claims that more than half of young people in America who are infected with HIV, are not aware of it.
The Memphis-Shelby County Health Department reports that in 2011, there were more than 6,600 people living with HIV or AIDS. That is a 5 percent increase compared to 2010.
Ages 20 to 24 continue to report the highest incidence rates in 2011.
In 2011, the HIV incidence rate among non-Hispanic black residents was eight times higher than non-Hispanic white residents.
And new infections are attributed to unsafe sexual practices among heterosexuals and gay men.
Health officials also say they are particularly concerned about new infections among young, black gay and bisexual men.
"I really think they don't think it can happen to them and they are not responsible. They're not protecting themselves like they should," said Becton-Odum.
Becton-Odum says it is important to be informed, educated, responsible, and get tested.
In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Shelby County Health Department will offer free and confidential HIV counseling and testing during the month of December.
Click here for more information about how you can get tested for free.