By: Rev. A.J. Johnson – CEO/Founder

Baton Rouge AIDS Society

September 15, 2011


In today’s society there are many struggles.  We are constantly trying to find ways to make enough money to purchase or supply the things that we have now categorized as our basic needs.  The price of gas has gone up.  Maintaining the mortgage note is a necessity.  Making sure our children are in the right school is a priority.  However, God has become an item on the back burner, no longer a vital element of life.


Because our society is working on its own merit, we have more problems and more disease than ever before.  Many citizens in the Baton Rouge area have a deaf ear and a blind sight to the actual problems within our community when it comes to diseases.  Others are just walking around saying: “It has nothing to do with me.”  However, the love of Christ teaches us that we are our brother’s keeper. 


So Why Should We Care!  Here are just a few reasons: 

Baton Rouge is number 2 in the country with the highest rates of AIDS cases for the second year in the row.  This is the third time within 10 years of rankings.  Not to mention the fact that we have held the seat of 3rd, 4th and 6th within the same 10 years of rankings.  Yet, New Orleans is currently ranked from 3rd to now 9th in the country.  What are we doing wrong?


Louisiana has been ranked number 1 in Syphilis cases since 2006.  Yet routine screening has not become a part of health care programs throughout our state. 


Louisiana is currently ranked number 2 in Gonorrhea cases and number 3 in Chlamydia cases.  These diseases are also known to cause infertility, cancer, and even death.  However, they have been left alone in our community without any prevention programs. 


When looking at certain female populations, who are 15 years of age or older, 20.7% are documented as being in a married relationship.  However, 76.4% who gave birth within the last 12 months were unmarried. This leads to a conclusion that many women in the Baton Rouge area are in an unmarried relationship and having unprotected sex. 


The Center for Disease Control and Prevention define youth as ages 24 and younger.  When looking at women who are with an HIV infection in Louisiana, 38 % are between the ages of 13 and 24.  In addition, 33% of the women infected with HIV reside within Baton Rouge. 


Let’s not forget that Louisiana has the second to worst Overall Health Rating.  Our state ranks 49th in the country when it comes to health. Our neighbors beat us out for the worst state, Mississippi. 


Louisiana is currently number 5 in the country with the highest rates of AIDS cases. Yet we are cutting back on prevention programs and limiting the avenues that citizens can depend on for FREE HIV screening and treatment services. 


As of June 30, 2011, a cumulative total of 31,496 HIV/AIDS cases have been reported in Louisiana, including 318 pediatric cases.  When we look at people living with HIV/AIDS in Louisiana, 223 are between the ages of 0-19.  In Baton Rouge, 69 individuals are living with HIV/AIDS within the same age group.  This should have us alarmed! 
When looking at HIV/AIDS, 7,176 cumulative cases have been detected in the Baton Rouge MSA, including 71 pediatric cases. 3,035 cumulative deaths among persons with HIV/AIDS have occurred in the Baton Rouge MSA, including 18 pediatric deaths   
Because it is our community and our problem!  It doesn’t take much spirit to love and care for those who are dear to us.  But can we care for those who we are not surrounded by on a daily basis?  Can we look deep within our spirit and ask God to give us the strength to make a difference in our community?  Why Should We Care?  Because God has called us to do more and to be more.  We are to be living testimonies of His word.  
First and foremost, if you have never gotten an HIV test, you are part of the problem.  Get tested, get your results and get on with your life.  HIV can live in your body for over 20 years with no symptoms.  Don’t talk about the problem without knowing whether or not you are part of the problem.  Get Tested!
Secondly, DONATE!  Although times are hard, we continue to spend money on the things that we choose to: clothes, eating out, football games, vehicles, and more.  It’s time to invest in our community’s greatest resource: Our Youth!  At the given rate of infection within our community, our children will not be our future if we don’t prepare the way.  This includes reducing infection rates among targeted age groups through education and testing.  Baton Rouge AIDS Society is one of the oldest HIV organizations in the Baton Rouge area and the only agency which provides education and testing to the entire 7 parish community.   
Lastly, “Spread the Word and Not the Virus.”  This is a part of our prevention campaign.  We must each ask the question, what are we doing about this virus?  Get involved!  Volunteer your time.  Deliver HIV prevention messages among your friends and co-workers.  Make it a part of your church ministry.  Make literature available within your given community.  Help to make HIV prevention a part of the social norms within your community.  Do something, and keep doing something until we beat this epidemic.  
Until the struggle is over, may God continue to Bless You and Keep You!   

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