Ending the HIV Epidemic in East Baton Rouge Parish, Louisiana
Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America is a bold new federal initiative that aims to reduce new HIV infections in the United States by 90 percent by 2030. The initiative significantly increases resources, technology, and expertise to fight HIV, focusing first in communities that are now hardest hit by the HIV epidemic and eventually reaching all corners of America.
In July 2019, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded $6 million from the Minority HIV/AIDS Fund to support innovative efforts to expand HIV diagnosis, treatment, prevention, and response in four U.S. jurisdictions with high concentrations of new HIV diagnoses including East Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Lessons learned from these jumpstart areas are providing important insights for all communities beginning this year to scale up efforts to end local HIV transmission.
To jumpstart national efforts to end the HIV epidemic, Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish is launching innovative efforts to expand HIV diagnosis, treatment, and prevention. They are doing this by:
Mobilizing community health care workers to reach people who don’t regularly access the healthcare system with critical HIV testing and support services
Conducting routine, opt-out HIV testing in hospital emergency departments, so that patients are automatically offered an HIV test without having to ask for one
Engaging the local community to inform state and local HIV planning efforts
Louisiana’s East Baton Rouge Parish has been hit hard by HIV—the rate of people living with HIV is three times higher than the national average. But the parish is galvanized to end HIV in its community, thanks to leadership from all corners — including the Mayor’s office; the Louisiana Department of Health Office of Public Health, STD/HIV-Hepatitis Program (SHHP); Gilead Sciences; chief executive officers (CEOs) of local East Baton Rouge hospitals; emergency room nurses and doctors; community health workers; people with HIV; and other East Baton Rouge community members.
With support from the national Ending the HIV Epidemic initiative, these leaders are coming together to build and scale up efforts to confront HIV head-on. The coalition is carefully assessing community needs and developing a multipronged plan to address them. They are harnessing the power of the hospital emergency room to diagnose HIV earlier and get people with HIV quickly linked to care and treatment. And community leaders are engaging directly with communities at risk, sharing strategies and resources to connect people with critical HIV prevention, treatment, and support services. Here’s how these collaborative efforts are helping turn the tide.