HIV and AIDS continue rearing their ugly heads in Louisiana, according to recent data.
The Louisiana Office of Public Health’s quarterly HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, released June 30, shows a statewide increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases.
According to statistics, the Baton Rouge metropolitan area is ranked first in the nation for the rate of AIDS cases, while the New Orleans metropolitan had the fifth highest rate.
The number of new HIV cases diagnosed here in Acadiana has remained steady in recent years, but the area still has one of the highest rates in the state following Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and is about neck-in-neck with Shreveport.
In the Lafayette Region – consisting of Acadia, Evangeline, Iberia, Lafayette, St. Landry, St. Martin and Vermilion parishes – the Office of Public Health reports there were 94 newly diagnosed cases of HIV and 57 new AIDS diagnoses between January and December 2011.
Statistics show that of the 94 new HIV cases reported here last year, 64 were men, 59 of which were black men. Among the new HIV cases, the majority, about 30 percent of the people diagnosed, were between the ages of 25 and 34.
According to the Baton Rouge Advocate, the epidemic's continued presence prompted a meeting Wednesday – the first in two years – of the Louisiana Commission on HIV/AIDS and Hepatitis C.
The Advocate reports that the reason for Wednesday's meeting was to allow the commission to weigh in on the recent statistics and discuss ways to move forward on the issue:
Late last year, Louisiana had one of the longest waiting lists in the nation for people waiting to receive medication through the AIDS Drug Assistance Program. ADAP leverages state and federal funds to help those who are HIV positive and who do not have private insurance, Medicaid or Medicare.
“There is no magic wand where this commission can go and find some money to get something done. But this commission is comprised of members who have a lot of experience ... Here we brainstorm to figure out what is best for our state,” said Raman Singh, the commission’s chairman.
At the end of the meeting, Singh said the commission could make a good start at tackling issues by meeting on a regular basis.
To read The Advocate's full coverage of Wednesday's commission meeting, go here.