NEW ORLEANS (press release) – Given the high rates of HIV infections in the greater New Orleans region, DePaul Community Health Centers (DCHC) encourages people in Southeast Louisiana and elsewhere to get free, confidential testing for HIV during World AIDS Day, Thursday, Dec. 1. The testing, conducted in partnership with Gilead Sciences, will be offered inside the DCHC mobile medical unit, located at 3201 South Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. Gilead Sciences will provide free lunches to persons who get tested on a first-come-first-served basis. 

Per 2020 stats from the CDC, Baton Rouge ranks seventh nationally among cities with the highest HIV rates, and New Orleans ranks ninth. More than 22,497 people in Louisiana are living with HIV, and more than half of them have AIDS. Additionally, 15% of people living with HIV in the south do not know they have it. 

Dr. Stacy Greene, infectious disease lead at DCHC, notes that HIV adversely impacts communities of color similar to what occurred during the first two years of the COVID-19 virus pandemic. 

“Just as it was shown that COVID-19 disproportionately affected minorities and the marginalized, HIV also disproportionately affects minorities,” said Dr. Greene. “African Americans make up 32% of the population in Louisiana, but comprised 63% of newly diagnosed HIV cases and 66% of newly diagnosed AIDS cases in 2021. The only way to know one’s status is to get tested, and we are pleased to offer free testing to everyone on World AIDS Day.” 

DCHC offers high-quality and confidential assistance for patients living with HIV and those who are at a higher risk of contracting it. Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP represents one of the main treatments Dr. Greene uses to help patients who do not have HIV, but who are at a substantial risk of getting it from injection drug use or sex. PrEP works to keep HIV from becoming permanent, reduces the risk of HIV infection by 92%, and is more impactful when combined with condoms and other prevention methods. 

“We now have effective medical care to help end the HIV epidemic. When patients diagnosed with HIV are on effective therapy and have an undetected viral load, the scientific data says they can’t transmit HIV. PrEP, when taken as prescribed in a person who is HIV negative, helps to effectively prevent HIV in someone who is exposed,” said Dr. Greene. 

DCHC treats everyone, regardless of their ability to pay, and accepts Medicare, Medicaid, ACA and commercial insurance. A sliding fee scale (discounted fee schedule) is available for those who qualify. Call (504) 207-3060.