Monday, July 5, 2010

Baton Rouge area second, New Orleans third in nation in AIDS

by Associated Press

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- The Baton Rouge metropolitan area ranks second in the nation in AIDS case rates, and New Orleans is No. 3, according to 2008 statistics released recently by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Miami ranks No. 1 in the nation, according to CDC data.
Sunday's Advocate reported that last year, the Baton Rouge metro area ranked No. 3 in the nation for AIDS case rates, according to the 2007 data.
The CDC uses the U.S. Census Bureau's Metropolitan Statistical Area to define the Baton Rouge metro area. It consists of nine parishes: East and West Baton Rouge, Ascension, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, East and West Feliciana, Livingston and St. Helena.
"My reaction is I'm not surprised. We were No. 3 last year and there are many different reasons why we are so high," said Timothy Young, executive director of the HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two Inc., or HAART for short.
Louisiana is ranked fourth in the nation for its rate of AIDS cases, according to the 2008 data.
DeAnn Gruber, interim administrative director of the state Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS Program, said the ranking is nothing new and that the Baton Rouge metro area has ranked in the top 10 for its percentage of AIDS cases for a decade now.
"Late testing is a major factor," Gruber said when asked why the Baton Rouge metro area ranks so high.
Mayor-President Kip Holden said the HIV and AIDS problem in the Baton Rouge metro area is a "monumental health problem."
"We have been consistently ranked in the top five and it's a major problem here at home that continues to rear its ugly head," Holden said.
Jim Llorens, one of Holden's assistant chief administrative officers, called the problem a "community issue" and not something that any one agency can deal with alone.
"We need to make sure people are aware that testing is critical. This (HIV/AIDS) is something we take very seriously," Llorens said.
Shirley Lolis, executive director of the Baton Rouge Black Alcoholism Council Metro Health, has been working for more than 20 years in HIV/AIDS prevention in communities in and around Baton Rouge.
"I think the number is high because we are identifying more people and connecting them to services. When they get the services, it's easier to count them," Lolis said.
Lolis said the rate is high in the Baton Rouge area because of a combination of new cases and more testing.
Lolis said her group and HAART just received a CDC grant for prevention programs and risk reduction plans in the Baton Rouge metro area.
The two groups will receive $246,000 a year for five years from the CDC to combat the disease, Lolis said.
State officials have said that part of the reason the Baton Rouge metro area ranks high for AIDS cases is because there are four prisons in three parishes in the metro area -- Iberville and East and West Feliciana.
AIDS cases in those facilities are counted by the CDC, and AIDS rates are high in prisons.
Young said the people in the area who have problems with HIV and AIDS do so because of a lack of access to health care, poverty and late testing.
"There is still a stigma to the disease, so that can lead to late testing," Young said.
Young has said risky sexual behavior and drug use are the leading causes of the disease, while denial of that behavior and denial of having HIV are part of the problem as well.
Although there is federal money available for prevention and some treatment, the federal government has cut some AIDS drugs funding, Young said.
Still, Llorens said, the Baton Rouge metro area receives about $3 million a year from the federal government's Health Resources Services Administration for outpatient services and HIV/AIDS drugs.
Information from: The Advocate,
(Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

We hope that you find the following links helpful if you or someone you know needs help with HIV/AIDS related issues. If you have any questions or concerns, feel free to contact Louisiana Stonewall directly and we will assist you in anyway we can.

AIDS LAW of Louisiana (Louisiana)
NO/AIDS Task Force (New Orleans)
ACADIANIA C.A.R.E.S. (SW Louisiana)
in SPOT (HIV/STD resources)

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