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Dec 16, 2009 5:00 PM by Veronica White

Acadiana Representative to White House on AIDS

The Obama administration is working on a national AIDS policy, and a handful of representatives from across the country were chosen to help. A local man was chosen by the Office of National AIDS Policy after they had heard of his hard work over the past decade. Acadiana C.A.R.E.S. director Claude Martin will go to the White House tomorrow to share his ideas.

This issue hits home for south Louisiana, which has some of the highest AIDS rates in the country, with New Orleans being number 2 and Baton Rouge number 3.

"The epidemic has moved to southern areas. The issue is the formulas-- the way the money is still being distributed the way it looked in the early 90's, so northeast cities and California are getting the bulk of the money," said Martin.

One of the National AIDS Strategy's main goals is to reduce HIV-AIDS health disparities. He says the main issue is not so much race or sexual orientation anymore, but rather, geography. He says we do not need a new program, but those in existence should better distribute funding.

"From HERSA, from the CDC, all the federal programs need to come together and try to coordinate."

Reducing disparities is only one of the National AIDS Strategy's 3 goals. The others are reducing HIV incidence and giving those with AIDS more access to help.

Martin believes high schools should better educate youth on good decision making and preventing HIV transmission because at a young age teenagers learn to participate in risky behavior.

Lastly, he and his team at Acadiana C.A.R.E.S. believe they have a solution for both prevention and care-- an idea about which Martin is most passionate.

"Developing housing programs that are centered around support and substance abuse and work through a housing program. We're trying to rebuild people's lives."

Martin says a stable lifestyle is the key to success. They have already had success with their "Hope House."

"It's made it a lot easier to re-enter into society. It gives you a 2nd opportunity at life," said resident Henry Gaymon Jr.

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