Empowering Communities to Take the Lead in Ending the HIV Epidemic
- Ending the HIV Epidemic in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
- Helping Community Members Confront Barriers to HIV Testing and Care
- Making Opt-Out HIV Testing Routine in the Emergency Department
- Empowering Communities to Take the Lead in Ending the HIV Epidemic
In East Baton Rouge, Louisiana, leaders in the community and the state health department know that to end local HIV transmission, the parish must understand and address the specific needs of its communities. In 2015, under the leadership of Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome in close collaboration with representatives and staff from Louisiana Department of Health SHHP, area hospitals, clinics, and community-based organizations (CBOs), the parish made reducing HIV a parish-wide priority. Now, with resources from the national Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, the parish has hired a new coordinator with the expertise, energy, and passion to facilitate the development of a formal blueprint for ending HIV in East Baton Rouge.
As a Baton Rouge native, Ending the HIV Epidemic Coordinator Mathilde Silverberg knew just where to turn for input on developing the jurisdictional Ending the HIV Epidemic plan: other local experts. “Our community-based organizations and health centers are the real experts on what’s happening with HIV in Baton Rouge. They’re the ones who know who’s at risk, what types of services are most needed, and which interventions could have the biggest impact.”
With guidance and mentorship from the Louisiana Department of Health, Mathilde hit the ground running in August 2019. She organized meetings with people from all corners of the community to gain insights to help inform the jurisdictional plan and to learn what efforts were already underway and how the health department could have the greatest additional impact. She facilitated meetings with everyone from CEOs of Baton Rouge health centers to executive directors, program managers, and other vital staff in community-based organizations.
“Our community-based organizations and health centers are the real experts on what’s happening with HIV in Baton Rouge. They’re the ones who know who’s at risk, what types of services are most needed, and which interventions could have the biggest impact.”
– Mathilde Silverberg
Ending the HIV Epidemic Coordinator, East Baton Rouge Parish
Next, she worked closely with health department staff to identify lessons learned from those meetings, using this information to design and organize a workshop to determine the HIV prevention and care priorities in the parish. People with HIV, representatives of community-based organizations, and staff from health centers, hospitals, and non-profits participated to inform the development of the jurisdiction’s Ending the HIV Epidemic plan. This plan is currently being developed and will be implemented, monitored, and overseen by staff at the Louisiana Department of Health, with Mathilde playing a pivotal role. The plan will identify strategies that will have the biggest impact in diagnosing, treating, and preventing HIV in East Baton Rouge while also addressing social determinants of health like housing, transportation, and behavioral health.
“Growing up in Baton Rouge, I saw first-hand how strong this community is, and I feel so fortunate to have this opportunity to come back home and help make a difference,” says Mathilde. “I know that the work we’re doing to reduce HIV is going to have a lasting impact.”
Jared Hymowitz, Director of the Mayor’s Healthy City Initiative and LGBTQ liaison, says that having Mathilde on board has been invaluable. “Building a healthy Baton Rouge is a top priority for the mayor, and she’s always pushed us to emphasize efforts against HIV. But like any city, we also need to confront other big issues like access to healthcare, cancer, and diabetes prevention. Now that Mathilde is on board, we have someone whose job it is to focus full-time on developing a plan to end the HIV epidemic in our community.”
Disclaimer: These stories do not represent endorsements by CDC of any organization or company mentioned.