Louisiana: Baton Rouge Is No. 2 on AIDS List

New CDC figures show Baton Rouge is tied with Miami for the second-highest AIDS case rate in the United States. The list is based on 2002 AIDS diagnoses, and its per capita results form a basis for public health officials to compare national numbers. In 2002, Baton Rouge reported 49.5 cases per 100,000 residents, and New Orleans ranked seventh on the list with 39.1 cases per 100,000. Case rates for both cities were far above the national average among similar-sized cities, which for Baton Rouge's category is 9.1 cases per 100,000 residents and for New Orleans' category is 19.3 cases per 100,000. Baton Rouge's total of 304 AIDS cases for 2002 was 85 cases more than its 2001 count. In 2002, the New Orleans area reported 522 cases, compared with 308 the year before.

The number of AIDS cases throughout Louisiana rose by 21 percent from 1999 to 2002, said Amy Zapata, surveillance manager for the state's HIV/AIDS program. Zapata said the number of diagnoses in Baton Rouge rose steadily during that period, while New Orleans' year-by-year totals remained relatively stable.

The state received about 9 percent more federal money than last year to help low-income people get antiretroviral drugs. For the fiscal year that began March 1, Louisiana received $13.8 million in Ryan White funds, up from $12.7 million last year. NO/AIDS Task Force Executive Director Noel Twilbeck noted that the federal money is for HIV drugs alone and is not for medicine that fights AIDS-related infections such as thrush and Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia.

The appropriation also does not cover programs such as the dental center at Charity Hospital's HIV outpatient clinic and task force services like the food bank and meal-delivery program. Grant money for those activities is expected to be announced soon, said Twilbeck.