BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge has long struggled with the prevalence of HIV/AIDS. The metro area has been home to some of the highest case rates in country for the past decade. However, the latest report from the centers for disease control shows a small step in the right direction.
"The good news is, the problem isn't getting any worse. The rates are relatively unchanged and they're slightly dropping in New Orleans and Baton Rouge," said Tim Young, executive director for HIV/AIDS Alliance Region Two.
The latest CDC report compiles data from 2012, the most recent available. It shows that Baton Rouge now ranks 2nd in the country for AIDS case rates with 27.5 cases per 100,000. This is a slight improvement over the 2011 data in which Baton Rouge ranked 1st with 29.4.
The metro area ranks 4th for HIV infection case rates with 38.1. In 2011 Baton Rouge was ranked 3rd.
Louisiana as a whole showed similar changes, however, the state's AIDS case rate did increase slightly. New Orleans ranked 4th and 5th in AIDS and HIV case rates, respectively.
Young says the report makes him cautiously optimistic, and points to other signs of hope.
"Recent data by the Office of Public Health shows we're achieving about 50 percent viral suppression rates in the Baton Rouge area compared to the low 20's or mid 20's nationally," said Young.
Beyond the numbers, the CDC has also changed the definition of AIDS, referring to it as "Stage 3 HIV infection."
"I think it's probably a de-emphasis on the label "AIDS" which no longer means what it used to be. Now HIV infection is a chronic livable condition. People are no longer dying the way they use to," said Young.
Young hopes that the name change will help reduce the stigma that surrounds the virus and encourage more people to get tested, know their status, and seek treatment if needed.
Young says awareness and testing are still key to fighting HIV/AIDS in our Community. More information on testing and prevention can be found