BR leads nation in AIDS cases for 2nd year

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the second straight year, Baton Rouge topped the nation in new AIDS cases per capita.

The latest report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has many saying the Capital City is overdue for a change.

It's been a decade since Sharon Decuir faced her worst nightmare -- the day she was diagnosed with HIV.

"I was shocked like most people. I went through the shame, the embarrassment, the fear of being alienated," said Decuir.

She's one of the thousands of cases in the capital city.

For the second year in a row, Baton Rouge leads the nation in the number of AIDS followed by major metro areas - Miami, Atlanta, New Orleans and Baltimore.

"We've been in the top five but what have we done about it? We have not established a community plan as to how we're going to lower our rates of infection," said Rev. A.J. Johnson with the Baton Rouge AIDS Society.

Rev. Johnson said the biggest problem is a lack of education. Having been around the country discussing the problem, Rev. Johnson said other cities have billboards or commercials to get the message out, but in Baton Rouge, he said there are no signs.

"We don't want to air our laundry per say. We don't want to put it out there that we're number one. But in the meantime, we're keeping this information from our community because a lot of people, when I tell people, 'We're number one,' they say, 'I didn't know that,' said Rev. Johnson.

It's why he's taken it upon himself with hopes of getting other pastors to spread the word through churches and sermons.

"HIV is 100 percent livable," said Decuir.

Decuir is also helping. She's with the HIV Against Alliance for Region 2, or HAART, a non-profit that provides education for prevention, treatment for those HIV positive and services like free tests. It's something both agree is the most important thing you can do for yourself, get tested.

"I had no idea that HIV was something that would affect me," said Decuir.

Even though Baton Rouge remains first, the number of HIV cases annually has dropped for the city. The latest numbers show 29 of every 100,000 people are HIV positive. That's down from 33 per 100,000.

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