HIV/AIDS Advocate: We're not doing enough to solve the problem

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - It's a number two ranking no city wants, but Baton Rouge has become accustomed to. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the city has the second most new HIV cases per 500,000 people.  When it comes to new AIDS cases, Baton Rouge is number one. The full study can be viewed here.

"It's not shocking to us as Baton Rouge is number two, Baton Rouge is number one, Baton Rouge is number two for two years in a row, Baton Rouge is number two in 2002," said Rev. A.J. Johnson of the Baton Rouge AIDs Society.  "We've always been in the top ten."

Despite a governor's commission formed to tackle the problem, and several advocacy and health groups in the city these numbers have stayed high.

"We're not doing enough education, we're not doing enough testing, and we're not doing enough awareness, where being number one and being number two we should have a community that is just up and shouting about it," said Johnson.

Baton Rouge native Sharon Decuir heads up preventative programming at HAART, HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two.  She teaches people how to change risky behavior.

She knows the need for education and change, because she has been living with HIV for ten years.

"The more you learn about HIV, even for myself the more I learned the more educated I became, the productive I became in taking care of myself," said Decuir.

Decuir says she is living proof that HIV can infect anyone, saying she didn't live a risky lifestyle.

"We need to get people comfortable with being tested, because they don't get tested because of a fear. They need to know testing is essential in finding out where you stand because with treatment you can have a quality and long life," she said.

Finding out your status is still the number one way to prevent HIV and AIDs, and it's actually very easy. There's a quick oral swap that can be done at multiple agencies around the city, including  HAART and  the Baton Rouge AIDS Society which tests every Wednesday from 4-6.

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