Mayor Broome signs pledge to combat HIV/AIDS

Joins 70 other cities in the fight to eradicate the epidemic

BATON ROUGE, La. (LOCAL 33) (FOX 44) - Baton Rouge Mayor-President Sharon Weston-Broome joined over 70 cities in an intiative to help combat the hiv/aids epidemic by signing "The Fast-Track Cities Treaty" at an HIV summit she hosted on the campus of Baton Rouge Community College.

The summit featured a panel discussion of local professionals, doctors, case workers, as well as international experts who deal with cases of HIV on a number of levels in hopes of changing the narrative and battle the stigma surrounding with HIV/AIDS.

One panelist, Meta Smith-Davis of the Baton Rouge Stigma Index Project, believes that having a real conversation about these diseases will help end the stigma which she says is a major hurdle in overcoming this issue. Through her various works in the field she has developed a distinct definition as to what a stigma is and the dangers they possess in any arena.

"What I learned is that stigma is a mark of disgust or shame associated with a person or a group of people based on some characteristic that the society has deemed unacceptable," says Smith-Davis.

The Fast Track Cities Treaty was first signed in paris during World Aids Day in 2014, where the International Association of Providers of Aids Care or IAPAC, along with several other organizations and the city of Paris came together supporting Fast-Track Cities in attaining what they call the 90-90-90 target with zero stigma and discrimination.

The 90-90-90 target with zero stigma, according to the IAPAC website, refers to these three goals the organization wants every city to strive for in reducing the rate of transmission:

  • 90% of people living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their HIV status
  • 90% of PLHIV who know their HIV-positive status on antiretroviral therapy (ART)
  • 90% of PLHIV on ART achieving viral suppression
  • Zero stigma and discrimination

Dr. Benjamin Young, Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer of IAPAC, says that cities are where everyone needs to start. According to Young, cities more than any other area have the highest rates in HIV/AIDS and that cities should lead the charge in this fight.

"Be sure to hold this mayor and these doctors and to yourselves and to your churches that this is not just a piece of paper...that this is not just a conference...that this is not just political theater...that this will actually improve the lives of those in the communityand help those communities," said Young.

Baton Rouge along with New Orleans has now joined the ranks of dozens other cities in this  initiative which gives these cities with a high number of HIV positive rates the resources needed to reduce the rates of transimissions.

The summit focused on how engaging with people early on can help in this effort and that this will have to be a community effort that no one should shy away from.

"More people have had conversations about where it has started over what it is now...and we have to take action about whats going on," said A.J. Johnson, Founder of the Baton Rouge AIDS society who was also a member on the panel. 

Johnson believes that there is no such thing as too early when educating a person on the risks they take when having unprotected sex and that the through the right kind of communication people will be better prepared for future generations.

Although earlier in her term Mayor Broome felt pushback from many organizations regarding her de-funding of certain programs geared towards servicing those affect by these diseases she says she remains steadfast in wanting to be a leader in eradicating the virus. Her hopes is that she can remain true to her mission of ensuring that all will enjoy prosperity and good health throughout the city with Saturday being a launching point.

"Today is a rallying point for all of us and our community, to rally around these Fast Track cities...to rally around not just the thought but the belief that we can end the AIDS epidemic in this city and in this parish," Broome stated.

Baton Rouge is currently number two in the nation for HIV rates with New Orleans closely behind at number three.

For more information on the IAPAC and Fast Track Cities treaties visit their website at www.iapac.org.


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