On the occasion of World AIDS Day, the Louisiana Department of Health (LDH) announces an 11% decline in new human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) diagnoses over the past five years.
LDH reports a decrease in new HIV cases from 964 diagnosed with HIV in 2018 to 860 diagnosed in 2022. As of June 2023, the number of individuals living with HIV in Louisiana stands at 22,920.
HIV spreads primarily through sexual activities, as well as through blood transfusions, shared syringes, and from parent to child during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. It is crucial to note that HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact like kissing, touching, or sharing food, dishes or utensils. Moreover, the virus does not spread through saliva, sweat, tears, mosquitoes or contact with toilet seats.
Reflecting on this achievement, Jimmy Gale, a program manager for the LDH Office of Public Health’s (OPH) STD/HIV/Hepatitis Program, shared his personal journey: "When I recall the fear that followed my HIV diagnosis at 24, I'm reminded of our remarkable progress. On World AIDS Day, I honor those who came before me, who showed me my true potential and helped me find my strength and my voice.”
With access and adherence to antiretroviral medication, individuals living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load, reducing the amount of HIV cells in their bodies to a very low level. This scientific phenomenon, known as Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U), ensures that individuals with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus to others. People living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load can expect to live as long as their peers who do not have HIV.
In 2018, LDH worked with medical providers and community stakeholders across the state to develop Get Loud Louisiana, the state's collaborative plan to end the HIV epidemic. Key components of this plan include promoting HIV screening as a part of routine healthcare, various public education efforts, and enhanced linkage to and retention in care programs for people diagnosed with HIV, supporting the achievement of their best possible health outcomes, including durable viral suppression.