Baton Rouge --- June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, an occasion aimed at increasing awareness about HIV/AIDS and encouraging people to get tested and know their HIV status. Tests will be offered at sites throughout the country, and at many places throughout Louisiana.

Of the newly-detected cases in Louisiana last year, 22 percent were diagnosed with AIDS at the same time they first were detected with HIV. According to the Department of Health and Hospitals’ HIV/AIDS Program, new cases of the virus were detected in 56 of the state’s 64 parishes in 2003. Thirty-four percent of these newly-detected cases were females and 75 percent were African Americans.

“Far too many people learn they have HIV quite late in their infections, missing years of opportunity for early care and treatment, which can delay the onset of AIDS,” said LDH Secretary Dr. Fred Cerise. “That is why it is so important for anyone who may be at risk to take advantage of the testing offered. Once you know if you are HIV positive, you can learn about the resources and treatment options available.”

The CDC estimates that 800,000 to 900,000 people are currently living with HIV in the U.S., with approximately 40,000 new HIV infections occurring in the U.S. every year. The possibility a person could be living with HIV in this state is high --- 15,471 people are currently living with HIV/AIDS in Louisiana. Louisiana ranks fifth-highest in AIDS case rates and ranked 10th in the number of AIDS cases diagnosed in 2002. Baton Rouge tied with Miami, ranking second out of 104 metropolitan areas in AIDS case rates; New Orleans ranked seventh.

Test sites throughout the state will offer expanded testing hours through June 27 for National HIV Testing Day. For a complete list, or to receive more information about the testing, contact the Louisiana Statewide HIV/AIDS hotline at 1-800-99AIDS9 or 1-800-992-4379, or the local New Orleans HIV/AIDS hotline at (504) 821-6050.

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