Dozens of HIV/AIDS patients, advocates and healthcare workers all decked in red and pleading to Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome.
“People are going to die if this decision is not reversed, and we’re here to call the mayor’s attention to this,” said Southern Bureau Chief of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation Michael Kahane.
Kahane said this protest comes as a continued effort to fight for funding after the mayor’s office defunded a critical program to get HIV and AIDS patients affordable care. SO, AHF filed a lawsuit against the city to get something done about it.
“Ryan White is the name of the young child that passed away from HIV at the beginning of the epidemic. It’s a federal program that provides federal dollars to counties and municipalities to provide care for people with HIV. HIV is a public health threat,” explained Kahane.
These protesters said they are not attacking the mayor’s office, but just trying to send a message.
“We’re here because 30% of people will be out of care, and we want to make sure the community is aware of that. We want to make sure that people in the whole entire Baton Rouge community know that the rate for HIV is extremely high here, and we need your help. We need you support Mayor Broome,” said HIV/AIDS Advocate Sashika Baunchand.
“We’re quite certain the Mayor doesn’t know what’s going on. It’s being done by staff members under her, but we want to start a dialogue with the mayor and we want to start a dialogue with the bureaucrats that are under her so that bureaucracy doesn’t kill people,” concluded Kahane.
Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome did release a statement Thursday afternoon:
“HIV and AIDS prevention and care are indeed important to our residents. Programs that provide these services are vital, and my administration recognizes this. The AIDS Healthcare Foundation is just one of these programs servicing this community. Ryan White funds are used to purchase medications for Ryan White eligible clients through the 340B program. Regulations require the Ryan White program to monitor the use of all funds. It is unfortunate that AHF did not comply with the funding requirements. Records will show that AHF has indeed filed litigation in other cities as well. Our team has already started working on a transition plan. No services to our residents of East Baton Rouge Parish will be interrupted because of AHF’s current situation here.”