BATON ROUGE, LA — March 14, 2019 — The cities of Baton Rouge and New Orleans are joining the Louisiana Department of Health in pledging their support for the U=U Campaign. In February, LDH Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee gave the Department’s support for the campaign.
The U=U Campaign is a national effort to highlight established evidence that people living with HIV cannot spread the virus to sexual partners if they are receiving care and taking medications to control the virus to the point that it cannot be detected in the blood. In other words, Undetectable=Untransmittable.
Louisiana ranks fourth in the nation for the highest HIV case rates. New Orleans and Baton Rouge are two of the top five cities for rates of HIV diagnoses, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistics. In 2018, there were 22,180 Louisianans living with HIV and over half have had a prior AIDS diagnosis.
“Individuals can and should live essentially normal lives and should be treated as such. This campaign highlights the importance of people getting tested and learning their HIV status. Then, those who are identified as living with HIV can be referred to effective treatment,” Gee said.
In 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention endorsed the U=U campaign as the most important message in the fight against HIV. It serves as a transformative message for people living with HIV and an informative message for those who are not.
"This campaign will help dismantle the stigma surrounding HIV, encouraging people to find out their status and help them start and stay on treatment to keep them and their partners healthy," said Dr. Jennifer Avegno, director of the City of New Orleans Health Department.
“The U=U campaign will reduce the shame and fear of sexual transmission while also strengthening advocacy for universal access to treatment, care and diagnostics,” Avegno added. “This is an opportunity for us to transform the perception around this illness and save lives through proper treatment.”
“Ending the stigma around HIV is crucial for people to get tested and treated to reduce their viral load to an undetectable level,” said Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
“Getting the necessary care is critical to living a quality, healthy life with HIV, and that is the message this campaign seeks to communicate – living with HIV today is not the same as it was 20 years ago,” added Broome. “This is a message of freedom and hope.”
Through work done in the state, Louisiana has seen a decrease in HIV and AIDS rates and diagnoses. According to CDC data, Louisiana fell from third in HIV infection diagnosis rate in 2016 to fourth in 2017. Overall, there was a decrease of 120 cases from 2016 to 2017.
This is due, in part, to raising public and provider awareness to the deficiencies in screening and diagnosis rates. The Louisiana Health Hub has been redesigned into a central online site for education, locations for screening and treatment, and a directory of community partners. Health Hub is maintained by the Louisiana Department of Health and serves as a centralized location for information about STDs.
Baton Rouge and the City Health Department of New Orleans are joining several state health departments and hundreds of other health-care organizations across the globe who have partnered to support this critical initiative.