BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - New HIV diagnoses dropped last year to their lowest number in Louisiana in more than a decade - and possibly even a generation, the state Department of Health said Tuesday.
There were 989 new diagnoses in 2018, compared to at least 1,000 every year since 2006, according to the department's Bureau of Infectious Diseases.
There were 964 new cases in 2005 and 982 in 2006, but a state report said those numbers were low because so many people left and testing was disrupted after the hurricanes of August and September 2005.
"It is quite possible that the number of new HIV cases reported in Louisiana in 2005 and 2006 were artificially low due to reporting challenges resulting from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita," Dr. Alexander Billioux, head of the Office of Public Health, said in the news release. "We know these storms had a big impact on the state's health services at that time. Since there had not been fewer than 1,000 people with HIV diagnosed each year since 1988, it is quite possible that today's number is the lowest in a generation."
As of the end of March, 11,125 Louisiana residents were living with AIDS and another 10,994 with HIV, according to the state's most recent quarterly report .
Billioux (bee-yoo) said there's an encouraging increase in the number of people with HIV who get linked to medical care within 30 days.
"With fewer new cases and more people getting care, the trends are very positive for the future," he said.
Treatment can now push the virus to undetectable levels, and routine HIV screening has increased around the state, Billioux said.
"This provides even more support for importance of knowing your status and taking control of your infection to suppress the virus in the body," he said. "As we have said before, undetectable equals untransmittable."