Baton Rouge Has Highest HIV/AIDS Rates in LouisianaBaton Rouge has surpassed New Orleans as the city with the highest rate of HIV infections in Louisiana, members of the Louisiana Commission on HIV/AIDS were told Thursday. Statistics from 1999 show that 53 of every 100,000 Baton Rouge residents are HIV-positive, compared to 49 of 100,000 in the New Orleans area. Beth Scalco, administrative director of the HIV/AIDS unit in the state Office of Public Health, said that the metropolitan Baton Rouge area also has surpassed the metropolitan New Orleans area in the AIDS case rate. Scalco noted, "Among large cities in the nation, the AIDS case rate for metro Baton Rouge ranks 12th highest; the metro New Orleans AIDS case rate is 14th." She added that injection drug users represent the "leading exposure group" in the Baton Rouge area.
Lawmakers Push for Action
Rep. Jackie Clarkson (D) and commission Chair Harlee Kutzen of New Orleans urged lawmakers to "preserve state funds to HIV/AIDS education and treatment." In addition, they joined state Sen. Paulett Irons (D) earlier this week in a meeting with aides to Gov. Mike Foster (R) to discuss additional funding. Clarkson said, "It will cost five times more (for hospitalization) if we don't do this. This is not a gay or a New Orleans problem. It is a problem for females and heterosexuals and rural areas of the state. This is a Louisiana problem" (Associated Press, 1/12).