Baton Rouge has been recognized as the state’s capital and is very well known.

Unfortunately, one of the many things the Red Stick city is known for is its extremely high number of AIDS cases. A large portion of Baton Rouge’s AIDS cases are among African Americans and among people who are 25 or younger. More education and awareness needs to be provided to the citizens about HIV and AIDS.

From my personal experience as a medical assistant, there are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS. Providing proper education on the diseases may decrease the enormous number of diagnoses per year.

Simply participating in the sex education classes at school may not be providing enough education to our young citizens. After-school seminars should be considered as a useful way to provide that extra information. The after-school seminars could be hosted by volunteering physicians, instead of someone with less experience.

The after-school seminars would provide a more-effective way of teaching one on one and can allow sufficient time to answer any questions or address any personal concerns of students.

Students at high schools and colleges should be given opportunities for a free screening if they have a concern about being infected. Some colleges, such as Baton Rouge Community College, have already begun raising awareness by distributing a free HIV screening to students on a specific date.

The free screenings provided by the schools may be what helps our young people become safer in their personal relations. Some students may not know whether they are infected because of the cost of having the HIV screening done at a physician’s office. The free screening can provide extra peace of mind to those who are already terrified enough having the test done.

The state of Louisiana has a staggering number of reported AIDS cases and most likely even more that are still undiagnosed. By providing more education routes to students and the opportunity for a free HIV screening, the number of cases reported yearly in Baton Rouge can drop drastically. Although AIDS is a very tough issue to discuss, it needs to be brought to people’s attention because AIDS is lethal.

Ashley Vollenweider

student, medical assistant