BATON ROUGE, La (BRPROUD) – “Baton Rouge is number one,” said Shirley Lolis, Executive Director of Metro Health.
That’s not a positive ranking Shirley Lolis is bragging about. She said the city holds the top spot in new HIV cases in the country.
“It’s very very important for people to get educated, get tested, get treatment, if needed, said Lolis.
Lolis is the executive director of Metro Health. It’s one of many organizations working to address HIV rates in the city. Over the past several years, the city cut its HIV rate thanks to increased testing, but COVID-19 put a pause on those efforts and caused cases to spike again.
“People were locked in, limited, not moving around as much. It just was not prevention and treatment was not the main focus at that time. People were thinking more about surviving,” said Lolis.
The city will now use the same game plan as before and meet the community where they are.
“Having active street outreach, visiting venues where people hang out and interact. Not only bring in education but talking with people about risk reduction,” said Lolis.
The renewed testing campaign will also try to change the stigma about HIV. Lolis says knowing your status not only protects you but others as well.
“It’s not the end of the world. It may be the beginning of something different, but it’s a good difference because you’ll be living your life,” said Lolis.
If you want to get tested, the city has partnered with Metro Health, Baton Rouge Aids Society, Care South, Our Lady of the Lake Regional Medical Center and others.