Published: Dec 02, 2010 1:44 AM EST
Updated: Dec 01, 2010 7:22 PM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - A local non-profit organization is working to end the stigma associated with H-I-V and AIDS while also helping patients with the illness live longer, healthier lives.

The Bob Rauschenberg Center for Living in Ft. Myers offers free blood test and counseling to patients who are H-I-V positive.

The center also recently opened a food pantry, helping serve an estimated 300 people a month.

A new report , released in time for the Dec. 1 H-I-V/AIDS Awareness Day, shows promising and troubling trends in the battle against the
deadly disease.  The United Nations says new H-I-V infections have declined by almost 20-percent  worldwide over the past decade.  However, the number of new H-I-V infections is higher than the number of people starting treatment.

In Florida, it's estimated 100,000 people are living with H-I-V or AIDS.  Experts say up to 25% may not be aware they are infected, and are at risk of unknowingly sharing the disease with others.

Health departments and the CDC recommend an H-I-V test for anybody who is sexually active.

For more information on the Rauschenberg Center for Living, or to make a donation to the organization, call (239) 278-4272.  You can also learn more about the center online at