WARNING: Story contains some sensitive information that may not be appropriate for all viewers.
BOISE --The number of HIV infections and AIDS cases are on their way up, and health officials predict it will get worse if something doesn't change.
The result, according to health officials, is a 50% increase in local HIV infections over the past 5 years. In the same period AIDS cases have almost doubled.
The disturbing trend is magnified because much of the risky sexual behavior is taking place in public.
Adult bookstores, a university campus, city parks and highway rest stops: These are just some of the places where people are known to seek out complete strangers for anonymous sex.
In addition to not knowing who they're meeting, many don't realize they could be going home with a possibly fatal disease.
There's a misconception that in Idaho that we are immune from a lot of these things, but that is just not the case, said HIV prevention specialist Annie Clayville of the El-Ada Community Partnership.
In the Treasure Valley, there's a growing dark side
Strangers all around the Treasure Valley have been meeting in public areas for sex, sometimes it is pre-arranged, sometimes it isn't.
I'm sure it s larger than any of us really would like to think that it is, said Nikki Sakata of Central District Health Department.
These meetings can have dire consequences, like contracting HIV.It happened to one local man, who is now living with the virus.
It has changed my life dramatically, he told KTVB. The man agreed to an interview with KTVB if his identity was not revealed.
After a brief online chat, he said he and his anonymous partner arranged to meet.
The next month, he was diagnosed with the devastating disease.
It can happen. I didn't think it would happen to me, I thought I was immune to it, he said. Be educated. Be sure to know your partner. Don't do anonymous sex. Anonymous sex can hurt you and will hurt you.
Dozens of people come in weekly to area HIV testing centers after having had anonymous sex.
HIVPrevention Specialist Annie Clayville counsels some of them in her office at the El Ada Community Partnership. More often than she cares for, she has to break bad news once test results are back.
I've had people who do nothing but stare at the floor and hardly want to talk at all. I have people who are in tears the entire time, said Clayville.
Meetings often occur in public
From clients, Clayville and the local health department are learning how easy it is to meet strangers for sex and contract a possibly fatal disease.
We're told that at city parks, all you need is a signal to alert the stranger who's looking for the same thing; that signal could be how you park your car or what path you walk on.
Public rest stops on I-84 and a bathroom at Boise State University's library have also come up as reported meeting places, and technology is making some encounters easier than ever.
Some websites are designated for the sole purpose of providing users with a list of places to meet for anonymous sex. Those sites list more than a dozen locations in Boise, including Ann Morrison Park as a hotspot.
Now there are even GPS-based phone apps that will show you, on a map, who in your area wants to meet immediately.
Adult bookstores are known places for anonymous sexual activity that officials say have led to the spread of HIV. Inside, there are booths that are typically used for private viewing of adult videos, but some also use them for sex.
At one of the bookstores, KTVB experienced just how easy it is to meeting willing strangers.
During the lunch hour on a weekday this month, a KTVB producer went undercover to Vixen Video in Boise, found an opening in one of the booths and was propositioned for anonymous sex in less thantwo minutes.
What he saw matches the online reputation of Vixen Video, a place to meet for anonymous sex.
That reputation bothers the bookstore's general manager. He tellsKTVB his staff is cracking down with signs and constant monitoring, and if they see sexual activity, those customers are kicked out of the store.
We also told him about our producer's experience:
We had a producer who came into your store the other day and went into one of those booths and saw a hole, an opening in the wall of the booth. How do you explain that? asked the reporter.
Vandalism, responded Vixen Video General Manager Scott Johnson. And if we find out that there is that, we always put up metal bars and metal things, and they, people will vandalize it again.
It s kind of an ongoing concern of ours, and it's an ongoing problem that we have to address, said Johnson.
KTVB returned to the bookstore to see if the opening in the wall between twoviewing rooms was still there. Both rooms were labeled with out of order signs.
'It's going to be an uphill battle'
Health officials say a majority of anonymous encounter HIV/AIDS cases are reported by men who have sex with men.
Regardless, they say everyone needs to pay attention.
There are also cases of married people participating in the behavior, getting infected and passing it on to unsuspecting spouses.
To some people that's almost a death sentence, said Nikki Sakata of Central District Health Department.
Those types of things are really concerning, and we certainly don't want to go down the road where HIV takes a stronghold in our heterosexual population. Of course we don't want it in our population at all, but knowing that most of our population is heterosexual, I think that once it takes a stronghold, it would be really hard to go back, she said.
Health officials and the HIV patient we spoke to want the message out: Something needs to change before more in our valley are infected.
It is a huge fight and it's going to be an uphill battle all the way, he said.
I don't know what the future holds for us or where we would be headed if we don't do something to help educate our people, said Clayville.
Is sex in the bookstores legal? It depends on who you ask
The state health department doesn't regulate bookstores, nor does the local health department, but it does question the sanitary conditions in the booths and says they should be removed. It also says bookstores are a public place and because of that, sex inside is against the law.
When we talked to local police departments, they said the businesses are private, and there's nothing criminal about sexual activity inside of them.