There are 560 people living with AIDS or HIV in Lafayette Parish, according to the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals. Among the state’s 64 parishes, Lafayette has the fifth highest number of active cases.

African-Americans, however, make up the bulk of these cases. And it’s the same trend statewide, more so than any other ethnic group. In an effort to raise awareness about this disproportionate impact, groups around Louisiana will be observing the 9th annual National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day this weekend.

An event is scheduled tomorrow from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Acadiana C.A.R.E.S., located at 809 Martin Luther King Drive. Free HIV testing and counseling will be made available. For more information on the event, contact Anthony James or Swan Bonnet at (337) 233-2437.

National Black HIV/AIDS Day aims to motivate African-Americans to become educated regarding the transmission of the deadly disease, be tested and know their HIV status. Participants are also encouraged to get involved in their local community and seek treatment if they are currently living with HIV or are newly diagnosed.

“Many who are infected are unaware of their status and unknowingly transmit the virus to others,” said Jack Carrel, director of the state’s HIV/AIDS program. “That’s why it’s so critical for African-Americans to get educated, get tested and get treated.”

AIDS is a national public health threat which has had a significant impact in Louisiana, where the infection rate is over six times higher in African-Americans than Caucasians.  According to recent studies, more than 56,000 new infections occur nationally each year with the majority of those among African-Americans.

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