BR set to receive more than $1 million in HIV relief

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 10:43 PM CST
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BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - Sen. Bill Cassidy Friday, Jan. 14, announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will grant the City of Baton Rouge $1.48 million and the City of New Orleans $2.49 million in Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program grants to fund emergency HIV relief.

The Ryan White Program provides a comprehensive system of HIV primary medical care, essential support services, and medications to improve health outcomes and reduce HIV transmission among hard-to-reach populations.

According to Rene Taylor, Executive Director at the Family Services of Baton Rouge, Baton Rouge still ranks as one of the leading cities in newly diagnosed HIV and AIDS cases.

Taylor said roughly 80% of those new cases are from within our Black and Hispanic communities.

“That money coming to our area is critical,” said Taylor.

“Medication is still improving. I don’t think we’ll ever get to a point where we can say enough is enough,” said Tommy Franklin, a community health worker at Family Services of Baton Rouge.

Taylor said one of the biggest issues is that many people are walking around undetected.

She said there are potentially 900 to 1000 people who have no idea they’re infected in the Capital Region alone. Taylor said they have to find these people and get them tested, and this new money should help.

“We’re going to have a lot of boots on the ground. Going to areas, testing people, making sure that anyone that tests positive we connect them or link them to treatment quickly so they can have positive health outcomes,” said Taylor

Taylor said another big issue is housing.

She said the clinic mostly sees patients from low-income areas, who are more concerned about other issues than getting treatment.

“When you think about it, someone that’s HIV positive, and they don’t have the basic necessities of life, their focus is not on their situation. It’s on where I’m going to live, how am I going to afford to get somewhere to live,” said Taylor.

Even with the hurdles and issues, she said they have to press on and save as many lives as possible.

“Whether there’s a cure out there or ever comes, we have something here that can help keep you here, as long as you’re supposed to be here,” said Franklin.

Taylor said you don’t have to set an appointment if you would like to get tested. She said everything is confidential, and results can take as short as 20 minutes.

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