HIV cases in Louisiana drop to lowest in more than a decade

A man takes a free HIV test during the Harlem Pride parade in New York City on June 29, 2019. Photo by KENA BETANCUR/ AFP/ Getty Images

BATON ROUGE – The Louisiana Department of Health announced that fewer people have been diagnosed with an HIV infection in the past year, than in any of the previous 10 years.

According to the Department’s Bureau of Infectious Diseases, there were 989 people newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018.

This number of people newly diagnosed with HIV in Louisiana has declined over 12% in the past three years.

That number drops from from 1,124 new cases in 2016 to 989 in 2018.

In the years since 2005, there have never been fewer than 1,000 people who were newly diagnosed with HIV.

Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, says it may be even more than 10 years since this HIV measure was this low.

“It is quite possible that the number of new HIV cases reported in Louisiana in 2005 and 2006 were artificially low due to reporting challenges resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita,” Billioux explained. “We know these storms had a big impact on the state’s health services at that time. Since there had not been fewer than 1,000 people with HIV diagnosed each year since 1988, it is quite possible that today’s number is the lowest in a generation.”

Billioux added that of those who are diagnosed with HIV, there is an increase in the number of people who are being linked to medical care within 30 days.

“With fewer new cases and more people getting care, the trends are very positive for the future,” Billioux said.

Billioux attributes this good news to the achievement of viral suppression for those who are living with HIV, and increases in routine screening of HIV throughout the state. “This provides even more support for importance of knowing your status and taking control of your infection to suppress the virus in the body. As we have said before, undetectable equals untransmittable.”

“This is great news and demonstrates how the state’s HIV strategy and programs that are led out of the Office of Public Health are achieving results,” he added. “Moreover, as we learn what works well, we will continue to focus our efforts on the high impact programs and strategies that are driving these tremendous improvements.”

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