HAART delivers meals, free HIV testing to Baton Rouge homeless for World AIDS Day

HAART delivers meals, free HIV testing to Baton Rouge homeless for World AIDS Day

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - For the past 27 years, World AIDS Day has become one of the most recognized health days across the globe. World AIDS Day is held on December 1st each year and is seen as an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died.

This year's theme is The Time To Act is Now. The HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two (HAART) is participating in events throughout the Capitol City to bring HIV education to young people and homeless individuals.

The latest statistics show Louisiana ranks second for the number of per capital HIV and AIDS cases. The Baton Rouge area ranks first, among cities, for its cases.

According to HAART, young people make up 26% of HIV cases. The homeless population is considered at-risk because they are transient.

Tuesday afternoon, the organization delivered meals, warm blankets and clothing and offered free testing to the homeless under the North Boulevard Overpass. It's an outreach they've done for the past three months. Eugene Collins says they took their testing to the streets after a client came back to them and told them he had not been in because he was sleeping under the bridge.

"We've seen rates decline over the years, but we still have a lot of work to do. Under this bridge is like the forgotten population," Collins said.

There was no long line of people waiting to get tested though. Collins says they will keep providing the service, to normalize the idea of getting tested. He says once the stigma associated with the disease is gone, more people will get tested.

"I got tested about two months ago," said Percy Parker. His test was negative.

Collins says they are now also able to offer more generalized care to the homeless, once they get them in and get tested.

"Every life we save, every person we get in the clinic, every HIV case we get in treatment or bring back to treatment makes a huge difference towards eradicating the virus in the community," Collins said.

As one of the top HIV/AIDS service organizations in Louisiana, HAART assists more than 2,000 people statewide with health insurance services while helping more than 500 others in the Baton Rouge area with other critical services, such as primary care, medications, transportation to medical appointments and other supportive services.

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