Viewpoint: July 21, 2010

A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control ranks Baton Rouge No. 2 in the country in the number of AIDS cases per capita, trailing only Miami. Baton Rouge has consistently ranked in the top 5 cities and this year surpassed New Orleans, which came in at No. 3.

Risky sexual behavior and drug use are often cited as the leading causes of the spread of AIDS, but late testing is a serious problem that contributes to our high number. Officials say that's due to a number of factors: lack of healthcare, denial and a stigma that's still associated with AIDS.

Some think this is an isolated problem, but Mayor Kip Holden calls it a monumental health problem. There are a number of HIV/AIDS organizations in the Baton Rouge area, like HAART, or HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two. The mayor even has an HIV/AIDS task force, whose goal is education and prevention, as well as increased awareness of testing and resources.

Baton Rouge receives about $3 million a year from the federal government for HIV/AIDS drugs and services. There is help and there is testing available, but at some point, it's a matter of personal responsibility. AIDS was first diagnosed about 30 years ago and there is still no cure. If that's not incentive to bring about some personal awareness, what is? Baton Rouge has been dealing with an extremely high AIDS rate for more than a decade now. It's time to start reversing that trend.