BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - A group of protesters organized outside of City Hall Thursday morning to demonstrate about the Office of Baton Rouge Mayor Sharon Weston Broome's decision to not renew a federally funded contract with a medical provider that provided medical benefits to around 30 percent of the city's HIV/AIDS patients.
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation led the protest. Their contract with the city meant roughly 80 patients received discounted medicine.
Mayor Broome says the city ended the contract because of compliance problems, but she promised that every patient under that plan would be transitioned into a new medical plan to cover their expenses. Broome would not say exactly what those problems are, because AHF filed a federal lawsuit against the city, and those issues will come up during litigation.
"Since this is directly connected to federal resources, then we have to make sure that we're in compliance and so that was the primary issue," said Broome. "Our primary goal as an administration is to 80 plus, maybe 81 people who were part of that program will be served, and that is going to take place."
Michael Kahane, the Southern Bureau Chief for AHF, says they deliver great coverage, and their patients shouldn't have to change providers. "You've got patients here who are in care, who are receiving excellent care by the city's own evaluation, and who are virally suppressed," said Kahane. "It's beyond my comprehension why you would want to interrupt that care and tell people they can't go to the provider that they want to go to."
Mayor Broome does not know when all of those patients would be transitioned, but she says it will happen as soon as possible.
Baton Rouge is ranked first in the nation for HIV/AIDS case rates per 100,000 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.