Home / California, USA and World  / Louisiana wrestling with an HIV epidemic

Louisiana wrestling with an HIV epidemic

In 2014, Louisiana ranked second in nation for both estimated HIV, AIDS case rates; cities Baton Rouge, New Orleans ranked first, third respectively By FRITZ ESKER, Contributing Writer BATON ROUGE, La. (NAM) — While HIV infections do

In 2014, Louisiana ranked second in nation for both estimated HIV, AIDS case rates; cities Baton Rouge, New Orleans ranked first, third respectively

By FRITZ ESKER, Contributing Writer

BATON ROUGE, La. (NAM) — While HIV infections do not garner the media attention they did during the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, the disease is still at epidemic proportions in Louisiana.

In 2014, Louisiana ranked second in the nation for estimated HIV case rates and second in the nation for estimated AIDS case rates. Baton Rouge ranked first and New Orleans ranked third for estimated HIV case larates among large American metropolitan areas. In 2015, 33 percent of HIV cases diagnosed in Louisiana were in New Orleans.

African-Americans are only 12 percent of the population in the U.S, but makeup 45 percent of AIDS cases. For African-American men who engage in sex with other men, the risks are substantial. A 2016 study by the CDC found these men had a 50 percent chance of contracting HIV in their lifetimes.

Stacy Greene, M.D, and the associate medical director of St. Thomas Community Health Center, said prevention is a crucial step towards reducing those numbers. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was approved by the FDA in 2012. The drug Truvada is aimed at adults who are at high-risk of recurring HIV exposure due to their sexual or injection behaviors. Examples include having an HIV-positive sexual partner, sharing injection equipment, having a high number of sex partners, among others.

Education is also a tool in prevention. But local schools do not teach sex education, even though there is no state law prohibiting it. New Orleans City Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell said it’s not enough to teach it in schools. There should also be educational resources on HIV in local libraries.

Greene emphasized the importance of reaching Millennials (ages 13-34), who comprised 55 percent of American HIV patients in 2015. Instead of using old-school methods like pamphlets and fliers, Greene advocated using the Internet and social media to reach Millennials where they are. One such website is WePrepTogether.com, which educates the community about PrEP.
Diagnosis and treatment are also an important part of prevention.

louisiana-hivcp2a_artboard-1c_0The CDC estimates that one in eight people infected with HIV are unaware they have it. A person who is unaware of their condition is more likely to engage in risky behaviors that could infect others. But if individuals are diagnosed, then they can receive treatment. If properly treated, HIV patients can see their virus loads reduced to nearly non-existent levels.

The Journal of the American Medical Association published a study that found HIV patients on suppressive therapy did not transmit the disease to their partners during sex (without a condom). While such sex may still not be 100 percent safe, the study indicates that patients whose virus load is drastically reduced are far less likely to spread the disease.

“If you can make people’s virus load undetectable, you’re going to stop the spread of HIV,” said Dorian-Gray Alexander, a local advocate for HIV service.

But many people still are reluctant to get tested because HIV still carries a stigma to it that a disease like breast cancer does not.

“The disease is so stigmatic, people don’t want to get into testing,” said Dr. Greene. “If we can get them into treatment, then we decrease the chance of them passing on the disease.”

Another hurdle is cost. While treatment is essential, it is expensive. Greene said on average, suppressive medications cost $3,000 a month. For PrEP medication, that number is $1,500. Either way, it’s costly for those without insurance. But in 2016, more Louisiana residents have access to insurance than ever before because of the Medicaid expansion signed into effect by Gov. John Bel Edwards. The expanded coverage allows more HIV-infected Louisiana residents access to health care.

“Now we have the resources to make those medications readily available,” said Brandi Bowen, program director of the New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council.

But, there are fears that with a new Republican administration about to enter the White House it might not last for long.

“We’ve got to be aware that our votes have consequences,” said Rebekah Gee, M.D., secretary, Department of Health and Hospitals.

This article originally published in the Dec. 5, 2016, print edition of The Louisiana Weekly.

New America Media

 

 

New America Media is the first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2,000 ethnic news organizations in the U.S. More than 57 million ethnic adults connect to each other, to home countries and to America through 3,000+ ethnic media -- the fastest growing sector of American journalism.

1 COMMENT
  • Michael Damian December 14, 2016

    Good Day Everyone…

    HIV has been ongoing in my family for long..I lost both parents to HIV and it’s so much pain i have not been able to get over it. As we all know medically there is no solution or cure for HIV virus and the cost for Medication is very expensive..Someone introduced me to a herbal doctor(Native Medical Practitioner)in oxford..I showed the man all my Tests and Results and i told him i have already diagnosed with HIV and i have spent thousands of dollars on medication..I said i will like to try him cos someone introduced me to him..He asked me sorts of questions and i answered him correctly..To cut the story short,He gave me some medicinal soaps and some herbs(i have forgot the name he called them) and he thought me how am gonna use them all..At first i was skeptical but i just gave it a try..I was on his Medication for 2 weeks and i used all the soaps and herbs according to his prescription.. that he will finish the rest himself..and i called him 3 days after, i arrived and i told him what is the next thing..he said,he has been expecting my call.. he told me to visit my doctor for another test..Honestly speaking, i never believe all he was saying until after the test when my doctor mention the statement that my HIV status is now negative and the doctor started asking me how do i do it….I am so happy today. If you are out there suffering from this deadly virus you can also contact him via email: droyekpenherbalhome@gmail.com or call/whatsapp +2348168257144, i believe he can also be of help to you.

Join the conversation!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.