POSTED: Saturday, November 23, 2013 - 12:37am
UPDATED: Sunday, November 24, 2013 - 4:06pm
BATON ROUGE, LA (NBC33) — World AIDS day is not until December 1st, but the capital city is gearing up already.
"We ask your commitment to help Baton Rouge get to zero," said Colletta Barrett, the Vice President of Mission at Our Lady of the Lake, during her speech.
The goal of zero new HIV infections and zero deaths from AIDS is a mission for both LSU Health and Our Lady of the Lake. They hope that Friday's world AIDS day wellness fair and program will help that goal along.
"Today is about raising awareness, and if people have not been tested, we'll provide testing for them," said Barrett. "The overarching goal of our program is to get to zero."
The capital city hasn't reached that number yet. Not only is Baton Rouge number one when it comes to new AIDS cases, many of those cases are showing up in people under the age of 25.
Dr. Karen Williams, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at LSU Health Baton rouge said "one in every four new HIV infections occurs in someone between the ages 13 and 24 years of age, and that's quite striking.
Those statistics are "scary, real scary," according to attendee and dad, Ron Brown, whose pre-teen daughter Alayja will be in that age bracket. and soon.
"We [should] sit down and talk to them as kids and try to show them the things not to do," he said. "Its best to know, for you won't end up infecting anybody else. Everyone should get tested, no matter what."
And even if the result is positive, staff says there's still hope.
"There are many programs available to those who don't have access to health care. Medication is affordable, and people that are HIV positive live many, many, many years and never convert to AIDS," said Barrett.
And with candles lit to remember lives lost from AIDS, they also honored those who are still fighting.
"Thank God for the community reaching to people so they can learn more about the disease," said Brown.
They also offered free HIV testings, as well as screenings for blood pressure, cholesterol, syphillis, and glucose. Vendors were on hand to teach people about how to protect themselves. To find more information on testings provided at the fair, visit www.ololrmc.com