There is an epidemic running through our city, and while it is completely preventable, the number of new cases still continues to grow. Baton Rouge has some of the highest numbers of HIV and AIDs cases in the nation.
It's why, on a dreary day at LSU/ Our Lady of the Lake Mid City Clinic, a celebration of World AIDS Day began with a hopeful prayer, and a chilling fact.
"As a pediatrician, I'd like to be able to tell you young people are not becoming increasingly infected with HIV," said Dr. Karen Williams. "But, in fact they are. One in every four new HIV infections occurs in a young person 13-24 years of age."
Nationwide, doctors see around 50,000 new infections of HIV/AIDs each year. That's a rate that hasn't changed much since the 1990s, says Williams who specializes in pediatric infectious diseases. According to the CDC Baton Rouge has some of the highest case rates in the country. That's something that has persisted over the last decade.
While the treatment and testing has turned HIV/AIDs into a manageable disease, Williams believes there has to be more education and more testing, in more places throughout the community to truly make an impact and reduce the number of new cases to zero.
"Testing is an important preventative tool. Studies show that just making individuals aware of their status, whether HIV positive or HIV negative, influences people to change their behavior," said the doctor.
Baton Rouge has several testing sights. The Baton Rouge AIDS Society offers testing each week, and will even arrange a private and confidential testing appointment. Click here to find the times and locations. Testing can also be done at any area hospital.