The Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) reported that from 2018-2020, Louisiana had an average of 859 people newly diagnosed with HIV per year. This infection rate is why, in 2020, Louisiana had the 4th highest HIV diagnoses rate in the United States. On Thursday, September 29th, The LDH reported that in 2021 there was a measurable increase in new HIV diagnoses across the state with a total of 934 new diagnoses. The LDH notes that this rise in cases is alarming, especially since it is occurring in both rural and urban areas of the state. Dr. MarkAlain Dery, Access Health Louisiana’s Infectious Disease Doctor, adds that “while there are systems in place to systematically disenfranchise the communities that are being most impacted, we will continue to see increases in cases. Louisiana has some of the highest rates in the country for poverty, illiteracy, homelessness, and incarceration. All factors put individuals at increased risk of contracting HIV, and these are the systems that need to be addressed to prevent future increases in cases.”
To help respond to this increase in rates of HIV, LDH is encouraging providers and health systems to increase their promotion and discussion of HIV prevention options. Options such as Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) are incredible tools to help prevent HIV infection before and after exposure to the virus.
PrEP can be taken daily to prevent HIV infection even if you were to be exposed to the virus. The animation below featuring Dr. Dery and AHL’s Community Medicine Doctor and Health Educator Doc Griggs provides additional information about PrEP.
Where PrEP prevents infection before exposure to HIV, PEP can be used to prevent infection after exposure to the virus. For additional information about how PEP functions in your body, view the animation below.
Additionally, the treatment of HIV acts as prevention. A person living with HIV who takes their medicine as prescribed, and is able to achieve an undetectable viral load, can not only stay healthy, but will not transmit HIV to their sexual partners. This concept, known as U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) is an integral part of preventing future HIV infections. To learn more about the biology of U=U, view the NoiseFilter animation below.
In addition to emphasizing preventative measures such as PrEP, PEP, and U=U, the LDH is encouraging healthcare professionals to take the following steps to help reduce the rate of new diagnoses.
- Per Louisiana 2014 Act 459, all pregnant women residing in Louisiana are to be screened for HIV at their first prenatal care visit, at their first prenatal care visit in their third trimester, and at delivery. No infant should leave the hospital without documentation of the mother’s serological status from at least one HIV test during pregnancy.
- Provide opt-out annual HIV/STI screening on all sexually active patients and more frequently (every three to six months) on patients with increased risk. Persons likely to have increased HIV risk include people who use injection drugs and their sex partners, persons who exchange sex for money or drugs, sex partners of HIV-infected persons, gay and bisexual men, and heterosexual persons who themselves or whose sex partners have had more than one sex partner since their most recent HIV test.
- Discuss HIV prevention options such as PrEP, PEP, and U=U with all sexually active patients, regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation.
Want more info?
To talk to a provider about being prescribed PrEP or PEP, call the AHL Pythian Clinic at (504)-226-2976 to schedule an appointment with Dr. Dery.
To request a home HIV test kit, visit Access Health Louisiana’s home testing page found here.