BATON ROUGE, LA – Monday, November 25, 2019 – Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome announced a major public health improvement concerning HIV and AIDS diagnosis rates in Baton Rouge. Under Mayor Broome’s leadership, Baton Rouge now has a significantly lower ranking for AIDs diagnosis rates, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s 2018 HIV Surveillance Report.
In 2016, Baton Rouge was ranked #1 in the country for the rate of AIDS diagnoses. By 2018 Baton Rouge was ranked #10, with the rate of AIDS diagnoses cut nearly in half. This is largely due to Mayor Broome’s efforts to increase HIV testing through opt-out testing in area emergency rooms.
“People of all backgrounds, ethnicities, and social-economic status are affected by the infection. The greatest challenge in addressing this public health crisis is the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS,” said Mayor Broome. “Through the power of advocacy and education, we can lower the stigma and change Baton Rouge for the better.”
During a visit to the emergency room, patients receive information about the community-wide initiative around testing for HIV. Patients are then given the opportunity to decide if they want to opt out of the HIV test that would be included in a routine blood draw that patients receive during a visit to the emergency department.
In 2017, Mayor Broome joined mayors from around the world in signing the Paris Declaration, making Baton Rouge a Fast Track City. By signing this declaration, Mayor Broome pledged to reach 90-90-90: 90 percent of people knowing their status; 90 percent of people who are living with HIV are receiving treatment; and 90 percent of people in treatment have a lowered viral load.
In 2018, Mayor Broome’s Healthy City Initiative, HealthyBR, led the writing of the 2018 JOINT Community Health Needs Assessment between the five area non-profit hospitals. One of the top 4 health needs that came from this report is sexually transmitted infections and HIV.
Since taking office in 2017, Mayor Broome has collaborated with several community-based organizations and hospitals to increase the amount of testing in Baton Rouge. In 2016, these partners helped perform 18,280 HIV tests in Baton Rouge. Each year those numbers increased. In only 2 years, Baton Rouge almost doubled the amount of HIV tests to 33,312 in 2018.
This dramatic increase is due in part to a coordinated effort between Woman’s Hospital and Our Lady of the Lake to perform opt-out HIV testing in their assessment centers and emergency departments. From 2016-2018 the number of HIV tests performed in area hospitals jumped from 6,490 in 2016 to 22,875 in 2018. That is an increase of 350%. In 2019, Ochsner Baton Rouge joined this opt-out HIV testing initiative. This initiative is in partnership with Ryan White Program, the Louisiana Department of Health and Gilead’s FOCUS initiative.
Our partners include: Baton Rouge AIDS Society, Care South, Capitol Area Reentry Program, Family Services of Greater Baton Rouge, Gilead’s FOCUS Initiative, Louisiana Department of Health, Metro Health, Ochsner Baton Rouge, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center, Open Health Care Clinic, Volunteers of America and Woman’s Hospital.