TIJUANA (Border Report) — The number of HIV and AIDS cases in Baja California has gone up by 106 percent when compared to the same time last year, according to Mexico’s Secretary of Health.

As of the end of November, 666 patients in Tijuana had been diagnosed with the virus for the year.

“The pandemic affected access to treatment to many who have the virus,” said José Antonio Granillo Montes, who runs a shelter for AIDS patients called Las Memorias.

On this World AIDS Day, everyone is being asked to remember victims of AIDS and create awareness of the disease.

Norma Alicia Olmedo Navarro, who runs an HIV center in Tijuana, is encouraging everyone to remain aware of the risks.

“Contracting the disease can occur during sexual relations via vaginal, anal and oral, without protection,” said Olmedo Navarro. “Sharing of syringes, through blood transfusions without medical supervision can also lead to infection.

She said people between 25 and 44 years of age face the biggest risks.

“We do a lot of emphasis on people to identify their own risk factors, but even when they realize their behavior, they are still afraid to get near or to ask for a test, they don’t want to hear that they have probably been exposed to HIV,” she said.

Olmedo Navarro says anyone can get a free test at many sites around the city, including Tijuana’s General Hospital, adding that the results are known within five minutes and are totally confidential.

“Unfortunately, many people who get their results and have HIV go into isolation, they discriminate against themselves, they chose not to get help,” she said.

World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988 bringing attention to the HIV epidemic and efforts to increase HIV awareness and knowledge.