Advocates headed to Baton Rouge to talk HIV issues with lawmakers

Philadelphia Center in Shreveport. (Photo Credit: KSLA)

SHREVEPORT, LA (KSLA) – Members of the LBGT community and other advocates are heading to Baton Rouge on Thursday to sit down with lawmakers about the recent rise in HIV in the state.

The event is called Legislative Awareness Day.

Chip Eakins is the advocacy coordinator at the Philadelphia Center in Shreveport and says HIV has become treatable over the years although there is still no cure. He says the center is one of the only free clinics in the region, which is currently number one in the state in STDS. Eakins says those in the area are doing what they can, but the resources are running thin.

“We have case managers that are full-time that will help our clients balance their life with being HIV positive, with making sure they have a place to live, making sure they have food on the table and thing like that,” Eakins said. “So case managers really help keep our clients stay on their medications and make sure that they’re safe and have a decent place to live those sort of things.”

HIV and Aids haven’t been as predominant in the news in recent years, but Eakins says that doesn’t mean the problem is going away.

“That’s where the rates are going up now,” Eakins said. “When the pandemic first came about in the early 80’s, early 90’s, when they really didn’t have any treatments, it was really on the west coast and east coast. You saw it in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York. But now there’s been such a heavy focus and emphasis on the gay community in those areas, that those numbers have either leveled off or gone down. And here in the south and in Louisiana, the numbers are going up.”

Eakins says one of the big issues is to reform the criminal law when it comes to people with HIV. He says the law currently exists in several states and is meant to prevent people with HIV from spreading the virus to others. However, the way the law is written is simply outdated.

“Ours is very Draconian I guess I could say,” Eakins said. “The law was written back in the 80’s. So it was written back when people were really really scared and there were no medications and people were dying, and they didn’t really know much about how it was transmitted back then. It was written based on that, so there are a lot of things that are outdated or aren’t scientifically accurate with the law.”

Advocates will meet at the Open Health Care Clinic in Baton Rouge at 9 am on Thursday and talk with lawmakers about HIV-related issues.

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