Louisiana Health Workers Challenged as AIDS Changes
November 6, 2002
HIV/AIDS in Louisiana is changing, and public health workers must change their approach to curb the epidemic, officials told local health workers at Prevention Partners, an annual statewide meeting sponsored by the Louisiana Office of Public Health's HIV/AIDS and STD Program.
"The challenge of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is that the experience is profoundly different than it was just a decade ago," said Dr. Ron Valdiserri, program director for the CDC. "Because of better treatment, people are living with AIDS much longer, and the quality of their lives has improved dramatically." However, those same individuals pose a greater threat of transmitting the disease to others if they remain sexually active, he said. Since there still is no cure and no vaccine for AIDS, Valdiserri said, it is imperative that we not let down our guard on prevention efforts.
Current figures show that more than 22,000 individuals in Louisiana have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, said Beth Scalco, administrative director of OPH's HIV/AIDS Program. As of Sept. 30, more than 6,000 Louisiana residents were known to be living with AIDS, an additional 7,600 are known to be HIV-infected, and more than 8,000 residents have died of AIDS. Nearly three-quarters of the newly reported cases of HIV/AIDS are among African-Americans, and high-risk heterosexual contact is the fastest growing exposure category.
Louisiana ranks 18th in the country in number of AIDS cases, but eighth in the nation in AIDS rates based on population. In Louisiana, New Orleans still has the highest number of cases, and Baton Rouge has the highest rate. The good news is that the HIV/AIDS Program was the only program in the OPH that received additional funding last year, according to OPH Assistant Secretary Madeline McAndrew.
Prevention remains at the forefront in addressing the AIDS epidemic, Valdiserri said. "Americans are still dying of AIDS. Treatment is an expensive, lifelong proposition. Prevention is critical," he said.
Advocate (Baton Rouge, La.)
11.05.02; Laurie Smith Anderson
This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.