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Aids and HIV cases still on the rise in Capitol City area

Aids and HIV cases still on the rise in Capitol City area
Image by NBC33 staff

POSTED: Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 9:00pm

UPDATED: Thursday, May 2, 2013 - 9:04pm

Baton Rouge still ranks number two for HIV and number one for AIDS cases per capita nationwide.

There has been a steady increase of cases over the years, and local residents agree that this disease is something that needs to be dealt with.

"I never believed in a million years that this would happen to me," said Cassandra Brown, an woman with HIV.

Brown had a husband, children and lived a normal life until her world turned upside down.

"It got to a point where they sent me home to die," stated Brown. "They said they couldn't do anything else for me."

Brown was diagnosed with HIV and was on the verge of death until something changed; one day, she decided not to give up all hope.

"I went through a stage not taking care of myself and wanting to give up. Something came to me and said, 'You can do this. You can beat this."

Brown is just one of hundreds in the Baton Rouge community living with HIV, a disease that's avoidable, but expensive to treat. The disease has been spreading across the South for years, and its something Baton Rouge needs to tackle before it’s too late.

“It’s a problem here in Louisiana, where high amount of people are uninsured and have a history of lack of access to health care," said HIV and AIDS Alliance for Region Two’s Executive Director, Timothy Young. "It’s a problem all across the South.” 

With cuts to Medicaid in the state and the lack of insured patients statewide, this disease is not only costing those infected, it’s costing the public.

"It's a public health threat. It steals from us loved ones in our families. It robs people late in life and early in life,” noted Young. “It cost us, as a state, a lot of money. It's an expensive disease to treat, so our tax dollars are at play."

The people of Louisiana provide healthcare for the uninsured, and its costing those taxpayers not only in dollars, but in lives lost.

Many believe that education and prevention is the only way to get the numbers down.

"Our agency HAART has the only CDC-funded HIV prevention program in the city. We do testing with those funds," said Young.

Although HIV and AIDS cases are the highest among African-American men and women, all people in the area need to get tested to know their status.

Residents living with HIV, like Cassandra, have learned to accept their fate and become an advocate for those who are still free of AIDS and HIV.

"Accept me for who I am and not what I've got,” stated Brown. “Life goes on. Don't let HIV stop you from being who you are. Nobody can control who you are but you and your heart."

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