HIV cases in La. drop to lowest level in 10+ years

HIV cases in La. drop to lowest level in 10+ years

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) is reporting the number of people in the state being diagnosed with HIV is the lowest it has been in the past year and the previous decade.

LDH says according to their Bureau of Infectious Diseases, 989 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2018 and that the number of new cases has declined by 12% over the past three years, from 1,124 new cases in 2016 to the 989 figure in 2018. Since 2005, there have never been fewer than 1,000 people diagnosed with HIV in a year until 2018.

Dr. Alexander Billioux, assistant secretary for the Office of Public Health, says it might be even more than 10 years since numbers have been 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. 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 1998, it is quite possible that today’s number is the lowest in a generation,” Dr. Billioux said.

Dr. Billioux also says among those diagnosed with HIV, more of them are being connected with medical care within 30 days.

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

Dr. Billioux believes these new low numbers are due to viral suppression for those living with HIV and more routine screenings throughout the state.

“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. 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,” Dr. Billioux said.

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