February 6, 2014
This article was reported by News Star.
The News Star reported that the Greater Ouachita Coalition Providing AIDS Resources and Education (Go Care) would observe National Black AIDS Awareness Day on Friday, February 7, by providing free HIV tests at the organization's West Monroe and Winnsboro Road clinics in Monroe, La. Go Care also promoted HIV/AIDS awareness throughout the week in African-American communities in Northeast Louisiana.
CDC recommended that sexually active adults have HIV testing "at least once a year and three to six months after possible exposure." According to Go Care director Richard Womack, the key resources for preventing HIV were education and testing. According to 2013 data, African Americans comprised 74 percent of new HIV cases and 76 percent of new AIDS cases. Approximately 68 percent of all HIV-positive people in Louisiana were African Americans. Nationwide, African Americans accounted for close to half of the new infections (46 percent), but made up only 14 percent of the population. In Go Care's Northeast Louisiana jurisdiction, 76 percent of HIV-positive people were African American. Go Care was aware of 722 AIDS deaths since the organization began offering services in 1987.
Womack noted that these statistics demonstrated the disproportionate burden HIV imposed on African Americans in the region. In Go Care's early years, the organization's counselors emphasized end-of-life issues, but improved medical care has made it possible for HIV-positive people to live longer, healthier lives. Womack emphasized that testing and linkage to care were the first steps in preventing new HIV cases.
Go Care's preventive coordinator Gwen Guillory reported that premature death was higher for African Americans, possibly because of late testing and lack of access to medical care. She encouraged families, churches, and civic leaders to network and work together to share HIV information and educational resources.