NEW ORLEANS – While the COVID-19 virus pandemic continues to understandably garner the lion’s share of attention within the health care community, other conditions and diseases such as HIV, which gravelly impact Louisiana residents, are equally important. Per HIV.gov, Baton Rouge ranks number one nationally among cities with the highest HIV rates, and New Orleans ranks third. More than 21,000 people in Louisiana are living with HIV, and more than half of them have AIDS.
Dr. Stacy Greene, Infectious Disease Lead at DePaul Community Health Centers (DCHC), has seen firsthand the reduction in patients addressing HIV prevention and management over the past year and looks forward to increasing outreach in an effort to reduce the number of new HIV cases in this region.
“During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was an exacerbation in the gaps in the HIV care continuum. This was due to limited physical access to HIV care and prevention because of COVID-19 safety precautions. Just as it was shown that COVID-19 disproportionately affected minorities and the marginalized, HIV also disproportionately affects minorities,” said Dr. Greene. “African Americans make up 32% of the population in Louisiana, but comprised 66% of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 74% of newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 2019. COVID-19 has demonstrated emphasis on improving the social determinants of health for many diseases, including HIV, among the marginalized.”
DCHC offers high-quality and confidential assistance for patients living with HIV and those who are at a higher risk of contracting it. The pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP represents one of the main treatments Dr. Greene uses to help patients who do not have HIV, but who are at substantial risk of getting it from sex or injection use. PrEP, if taken daily, works to keep HIV from becoming permanent, reduces the risk of HIV infection by 92%, and is more impactful when combined with condoms and other prevention methods.
“We now have effective medical care to help end the HIV epidemic. When patients diagnosed with HIV are on effective therapy and have an undetected viral load, the scientific data says they can’t transmit HIV. PrEP, when taken as prescribed in a person who is HIV negative, helps to effectively prevent HIV in someone who is exposed,” said Dr. Greene.
DCHC treats everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, ACA and commercial insurance. A sliding fee scale (discounted fee schedule) is available for those who qualify.
Media inquiries may be directed to Kertrina Watson Lewis at (504) 231-0659.