NEW ORLEANS-- At the New Orleans AIDS Memorial in the Marigny, a series of glass faces stare out over Washington Square Park, as paved bricks leading up to it memorialize those lost to AIDS.
'We're seeing some staggering numbers coming out every year,' said T.J. Rogers of the NO AIDS Task Force.
NO AIDS is an organization at the forefront of AIDS and HIV prevention in southeast Louisiana. It's a place where the number of HIV cases has not improved in the past year.
Among the 50 states in 2011, Louisiana ranked fifth in the rate of HIV cases. This year, the state inched up to fourth.
Last year, among U.S. cities, New Orleans ranked Ninth in HIV rates; this year it ranks fifth. Baton Rouge's rate of HIV cases, remains at number one in the country.
'We pretty much mimic a lot of the rest of the South, which-- when you look at the map at the way cases are distributed across the country-- is the hardest hit region,' Rogers said. 'And so we're seeing issues that have always been problems in the South, with poverty, lack of education, lack of access to health care, health insurance-- all of those things are contributing factors.'
One good bit of news: the survival rate for AIDS has skyrocketed across the country in recent years, thanks in part to improvements in medicine and HIV testing.
'Becoming HIV positive in 2012 is, there are so many more resources and options available for someone. This is not 1981 anymore,' said Robin Pearce, an HIV counseling and testing coordinator at NO AIDS.
HIV tests now only require a sample of a person's saliva, with results in 20 minutes. The NO AIDS Task Force offers free testing; they do nearly 4,000 tests each year, through their outreach in New Orleans and Houma.
'We want people to remember that AIDS is still out there, it's still a problem,' Rogers said. 'Stay safe-- and most importantly, get tested.'
The NO AIDS Task Force held its annual 'Art Against AIDS' fundraiser at the New Orleans Museum of Art on Saturday night. For more information on their efforts and for information on free HIV testing, click here.