According to the 2016 America’s Health Rankings report conducted by the United Health Foundation, Louisiana is the second most unhealthy state in the nation, just behind Mississippi. The report uses a number of factors to create these rankings, but it has become increasingly clear over the years that the state’s high diagnoses of new HIV cases is one factor.
According to the most recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report leading up to World AIDS Day in 2016, Baton Rouge ranks number one for newly diagnosed HIV cases; New Orleans ranks number three. In Baton Rouge, 44.7 out of every 100,000 people is diagnosed with HIV; in New Orleans, it’s 36.9.
HIV is a virus that weakens a person’s immune system by destroying the cells that fight infection and disease. There is no cure for it. AIDS is a condition that is considered the final stage of HIV. It is most commonly transmitted sexually or through sharing syringes, but can also be spread from mother to child through pregnancy as well as several other less common ways.
To combat the HIV/AIDS epidemic prevalent in the state, the Louisiana Department of Health launched the STD/HIV Program, designed to prevent transmission, ensure the availability of medical services and track the impact.
Unfortunately one of the biggest barriers health officials face is the stigma around the disease and an unwillingness to seek out treatment and report it. Timothy Young, head of the HIV/AIDS Alliance in the Baton Rouge area told The Advocate in a 2015 article “fear of being associated with HIV is so pronounced that more than 25 percent of those who are newly diagnosed with the disease in Louisiana have already progressed to AIDS.”
It’s important for these people to know that HIV/AIDS treatment has only continued to get better and it’s no longer the death sentence it used to be, if you get tested.
To read more about the SHP program, please visit the Louisiana Department of Health’s website.
To read more general information about HIV/AIDS, please visit the CDC’s website.