Health experts: Northeast Louisiana has a big HIV problem

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WEST MONROE, LA. (KNOE) - Correction: An earlier version of this story said the HIV prevention drug was called Prophylaxis. It is actually Truvada.

Courtesy: KNOE 8 News

Health experts say, since December 2016, more than a thousand people in northeast Louisiana have been diagnosed with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Nearly half of them have already died.

Men make up about 73% of all HIV cases in Northeast Louisiana, leaving the other 27% cases affecting women.

Tavell Kindall, a nurse practitioner with Go Care in West Monroe, says HIV can spread quickly, because people may not even know they have it. Kindall says many of these people were never tested and in some cases, were never offered a test at their regular check-up. He says some people simply choose not get tested because they're afraid of the stigma that comes with the disease and others are concerned about how the costs of potential treatments.

However, Kindall says cost shouldn't be a barrier. He says there's a drug you can take that can prevent the disease altogether. It's called Truvada and it's fairly inexpensive.

"This is something to keep you from becoming a new case," says Kindall, family nurse practitioner. "It is a commitment, it's not like you can just walk off the street and get a year prescription for it and not have any monitoring, there's a commitment involved and you have to come in regularly for HIV testing and follow-up visits..."

Kindall says the drug should only be used by people who are HIV negative because it has bad effects on people who are HIV positive.

No matter how inexpensive Truvada and other treatments may be, not everyone can afford it, but Kindall says there are ways around that.

"Private insurances do cover 'prep' (Truvada)," says Kindall.
"Medicaid also covers it and for people who don't have coverage, there is a program through the drug company itself, and they can qualify based off their poverty score."

Go Care is giving free testing all day on Tuesday, June 27th at its facility in West Monroe (1801 N. 7th St.).

Call 318-325-1092 for more information.