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Louisiana: One State, Two Epidemics

Louisiana: One State, Two Epidemics

A recent report examines HIV in both rural and metropolitan areas of the southern state.

A new report from the Louisiana Department of Health makes the argument that a better understanding of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is needed in terms of rural versus metropolitan communities, as detailed in the Heroes Report. According to the report — titled “HIV/AIDS in Metropolitan vs. Rural Louisiana: One State, Two Epidemics” — more than 15 percent of Louisianans living with HIV currently reside in rural regions.

“Improving understanding of epidemiologic trends in rural Louisiana is crucial to developing customized solutions to address HIV in these areas,” states the report from the nonprofit organization Heroes, which focuses on HIV in the South. “Exploring the contrasts between rural and metropolitan regions for these risk factors will help identify rural-appropriate solutions.”

Using data from the state’s Department of Health and other sources, the report examined risk factors for HIV — including stigma, racial disparities, education, poverty, incarceration, and rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) — and compared them in rural versus metropolitan areas of the state.

The data showed that, compared with the metropolitan areas of New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the rural area of northeastern Louisiana has fewer HIV resources. For example, the rural region has one Ryan White HIV/AIDS medical care provider while the two cities have six and four, respectively.

Twenty-seven percent people diagnosed with HIV in the rural areas also received an AIDS diagnosis at the same time, compared to only 18 percent in New Orleans, and 22 percent in Baton Rouge. People in rural areas were also more likely to develop AIDS within a year of their diagnosis, suggesting that access to care in these areas is part of the problem. Those living with HIV in the rural northeast region were less likely to achieve viral suppression.

The report findings conclude that “in terms of significant at-risk signifiers for HIV/AIDS, the rural region had a lower population of people with at least a bachelor’s degree, a higher proportion of people living in poverty, a higher rate of incarceration and higher rates of [STI] infection in African Americans compared with metropolitan regions. There were no differences for the proportion of people with a high school diploma or equivalent in the rural region.”

Heroes is a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 (with initial funding from the Office of Women’s Health) that assists people living with and affected by HIV in the rural South. For more information about Heroes and its programs, visit HeroesLA.org.

View and download the full report here:

HIV/AIDS in Metropolitan vs. Rural Louisiana: One State, Two Epidemics

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Desirée Guerrero

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