NEW ORLEANS -- New Orleans and Baton Rouge are in the top three cities of people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. And the 70119 zip code in Orleans Parish has the highest rate in the state. It's also the number one killer of African-American women 25 to 40 years-old.
But all of this could change because of a new, free and quick test.
Dorian-Gray Alexander was diagnosed with HIV in 2006. But new treatments mean he can live a normal, long life.
Director of the Tulane T-Cell Clinic, Dr. MarkAlain Dery, says HIV is no longer a death sentence. It's a chronic illness like diabetes and cancer.
"Now we've got it down to one pill, once a day, you can keep that viral load significantly diminished. And once your viral load goes down, the immune system comes back up," Said Dr. Dery, who is a assistant professor of clinical medicine at Tulane, in the section of adult infections diseases.
For Dorian, HIV is now undetectable.
"If you do have HIV, it is not a death sentence and that you can live a very vital, healthy, life for a very long time. I plan to live a very long life," said Alexander.
Dr. Dery is not Dorian's regular doctor, but both are advocates of testing. And now there is a new free, confidential and anonymous test. With a quick finger stick, you get results in one minute.
"One in five people who are living with HIV are unaware that they have HIV and those 20 percent are actually responsible for 60 to 80 percent of new viral transmissions," explained Dr. Dery.
People who know they are positive are less likely to keep having unprotected sex and more likely to get on medication that decreases the virus in their systems, and that means it's less likely to be spread. Sexual intercourse is the main way the virus is spread. Transmission from sharing needles for injecting drugs accounts for 10 percent.
Dr. Dery believes it's much more beneficial to get an HIV test in a clinic, rather than using a home test kit. He says the immediate counseling you'll get could be the difference in living a long, healthy, high quality life or not.
Now it's a matter of spreading the word that modern medicine can prevent the spread of HIV.
That free test is at all Access Health Clinics in southeast Louisiana.
And there will also be testing at a fundraiser concert next Friday at 8:30 p.m., Dec. 13 at Howlin' Wolf, 907 South Peters Street, New Orleans. (504) 529-5844. Quintron and Miss Pussycat, The Mike Dillon Band, Vox and the Hound, and Les Autres are some of the bands playing.
For all the Access Health Clinic sites: http://accesshealthla.org/
For more on the INSTI blood test for HIV: http://www.fda.gov/ForConsumers/ByAudience/ForPatientAdvocates/HIVandAIDSActivities/ucm235483.htm
New Orleans Access Health Clinic:
711 Broad Street
504-609-3500 for HIV or primary care appointments
M,W,F 8am-4:30pm Thurs: 8am-7pm