At a news conference today at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Department of Health (DHH) officials announced free HIV testing will be provided outside this Saturday's Bayou Classic game. The testing is being provided by LDH, OraSure Technologies, Inc., and the Kaiser Family Foundation's "Greater Than AIDS" movement. Fans can get screened on game day from 10 a.m. - 1 p.m. at the Louisiana STD/HIV Program Health Fair tent in Champions Square next to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The screenings come one week before World AIDS Day and at a time when African-Americans make up 32 percent of the state's population, yet represented 74 percent of the state's new HIV cases last year. More African-Americans in Louisiana are infected with HIV than any other racial or ethnic group, reflecting a national trend. In 2009, as a state, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that Louisiana had the nation's fifth highest AIDS case rate. Amongst America's cities, Baton Rouge ranked second and New Orleans ninth nationally in AIDS case rates in 2009.
"If people with HIV have the virus diagnosed early, they are able to receive treatment and care early enough to delay the onset of AIDS," said LDH Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Takeisha Davis. "Early diagnosis also gives us the opportunity to provide outreach and education to help those with HIV better understand how to prevent spreading the virus to others."
By providing testing, LDH hopes to make HIV testing an accepted social norm in African-American communities and to increase knowledge of prevention of HIV transmission and its effects on Louisiana's communities. The tests will be private and confidential and will be administered by trained, certified counselors. Referrals to treatment will be made when necessary.
OraSure Technologies, Inc., the nation's leader in oral HIV testing, will co-sponsor the Bayou Classic Health Fair. The HIV testing will be done using OraQuick test kits produced by OraSure Technologies. The state-of-the-art oral test consists of a painless oral swab with results available in just 20 minutes. "OraSure Technologies is very proud to partner with the Louisiana Department of Health and the Bayou Classic to promote HIV prevention and testing," said Ron Ticho, Senior Vice President of Corporate Communications, OraSure Technologies. "Our technology enables individuals to get their results at the time they test, and those who test positive can be immediately linked to care."body text
The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state citizens. To learn more about LDH, visit http://www.dhh.louisiana.gov. For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's blog, Twitter account and Facebook.