Event seeks to remove stigma of HIV/AIDS

Matt Mckinney
Original Article:  bit.ly/1E2IdNe

Not long after Baton Rouge resident Meta Smith-Davis contracted HIV in 2001, she made it her mission to help others avoid the same fate.

“I was disappointed in myself,” said Smith-Davis, 60, now a prevention specialist with the national organization AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “No one has to get HIV. There are ways to prevent it.”

She was among the speakers Sunday at the first Cupcakes and Condoms for HIV/AIDS Awareness event hosted by the Baton Rouge nonprofit Butterfly Kisses Organization.

Both HIV and AIDS have an especially strong foothold in the Baton Rouge metropolitan area, which in 2014 ranked second in the per capita rate of new AIDS cases and fourth in the per capita rate of new HIV cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

AIDS is the full-blown disease, and HIV is the virus that you can have without developing AIDS.

“HIV goes from Yale to jail, from the White House to the crack house,” Smith-Davis told a room of nearly 50 people at the Baton Rouge Parish Main Library. “It doesn’t matter who you are.”

Panelists examined the factors that drive the stigmatization of HIV, from religious and cultural values to ignorance of sexually transmitted diseases.

Alma Stewart, president and founder of the Louisiana Center for Health Equity, said members of the black community often suffer the consequences of HIV because of misconceptions surrounding the virus.

“Initially this was a disease of gay, white men and a lot of African Americans think they’re safe because they don’t belong to that demographic,” she said.

Full text of article available at link below:  bit.ly/1E2IdNe