Antwan Harris / Eyewitness News
Email: | Twitter: @antwanharris

NEW ORLEANS -- HIV and AIDS are a growing issue across most of the southern United States and especially for New Orleans.

A new report shows the city has the second highest rate in the United States, and police are one of two factors making the problem worse.

The Human Rights Watch group said officers are harassing people in areas known for prostitution. That's according to over 100 people the group interviewed.

'It is fair to point a finger at them in terms of the harassment, abuse and other bad stories we have heard.'

According to the consent decree, this would be a violation of the agreement which states officers must be 'respectful and unbiased.'

A spokesperson for the department said in a statement: 'To date, we have no record of the allegations made in this report. The NOPD takes such allegations very seriously, and conducts thorough investigations into accused officers. Officers found to have violated departmental policy or law are disciplined, and in some cases, suspended or terminated.'

Mclemore said another issue is the state makes it illegal for anyone to carry a needle outside of medical use and lacks funding for an exchange program.

This means more people could be sharing needles and increasing the risk of infection.

'A lot of the work is being done by volunteers,' she said. 'People are delivering clean needles on their bikes underground.'

'It is expensive for Louisiana,' said Bill McCall, a political director for AIDS United. 'All that is going to happen is folks will end up in the emergency room and it will cost quite a bit of money at the end.'

MclLemore said the average cost of a needle would be less than a dollar. The Centers For Disease Control states the average cost to treat an HIV patient is about $10,000.

'My best guess is this report should be a wake up call for the state and hopefully they will put it on the agenda,' McCall said.

To view the Human Rights Watch report, click here.

Read or Share this story: