CDC: N.O. area ranks third  in U.S. in new HIV diagnoses

The New Orleans metro area ranked third among major metro areas in the United States for new HIV infection diagnoses, according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.

The report, released Jan. 10, is based on 2010 data on all metropolitan areas in the U.S. with more than 500,000 people. HIV case rates measure the number of new HIV cases per 100,000 persons.

New Orleans’ rate of HIV diagnoses in 2010 is 44.3, meaning about 44 people per 100,000 were diagnosed with the virus.

In Baton Rouge, that same rate is 52.1, which ranks it second in the U.S. Miami is first with a rate of 59.2.

The CDC uses the U.S. Census Bureau’s Metropolitan Statistical Area to define the New Orleans metro area. It consists of seven parishes: Jefferson, Orleans, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist and St. Tammany.

Noel Twilbeck, chief executive officer of the NO/AIDS Task Force, said he was not surprised to hear New Orleans ranked so high in new HIV diagnoses.

Twilbeck said social factors such as high poverty rates and a lack of access to proper health care contribute to high amounts of HIV or AIDS cases.

The CDC report says Miami’s rate of 93.1 HIV diagnoses among males ranks first in the nation. Baton Rouge is second at 70.1, and New Orleans ranked third with a 69.8 rate.

Baton Rouge is first in new HIV cases among all females in 2010 with a rate of 35, the report says. Miami is second at 27.5, Jacksonville, Fla., is third at 23.1 and New Orleans is fourth at 21.3.

A report by the Louisiana Office of Public Health, based on the CDC data, lists Baton Rouge’s and New Orleans’ ranks among different races.

Among black males of all ages, Baton Rouge ranks third with a rate of 178.6, the Office of Public Health report says. Among white males, Baton Rouge ranks 51st with a 15.5 rate.

New Orleans was 16th among black males and seventh among white males, the Office of Public Health report says.

For black females of all ages, Baton Rouge placed sixth and New Orleans 21st, the report says. Among white females, those ranks are fifth and 35th.

The Office of Public Health report also details Baton Rouge’s and New Orleans’ ranking among different age groups.

Those positions vary from Baton Rouge men ranking first in the 25 to 34 range, to New Orleans females ranking 15th for anyone between 45 and 54, according to the Office of Public Health report.

Baton Rouge women, however, are first in all four age range categories between 13 and 54, according to the Office of Public Health.

Twilbeck, with the NO/AIDS Task Force, said medical officials need to find a way to get more people infected with HIV into medical care. He also said anyone who is infected must seek treatment immediately.

“We know that we have enough science and enough evidence that, for most people, we can reduce the viral load,” Twilbeck said. “A lot of positive things can happen, and that person can move toward a normal life expectancy.”

Twilbeck also said people must change their behavior — practice safe sex and avoid sharing needles — to prevent the spread of the virus.

“We know how the virus is transmitted,” Twilbeck said. “What we have not been good about — and not just Louisiana, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, but the whole country — is getting people to change behavior to reduce the risk of transmission.”

The CDC regularly publishes reports about AIDS diagnoses by metro area, but the report issued Jan. 10 represents HIV infection diagnoses.