Racial disparities in health outcomes, STI’s on the rise in Louisiana

The Region 6 Office of Public Health hosted its annual Societal and Health Disparities Forum at LSUA.
Published: Feb. 24, 2022 at 7:23 PM CST
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - On Thursday, the Region Six Office of Public Health hosted its annual Societal and Health Disparities Forum at LSUA. The forum aims to educate and highlight health care disparities in different demographics around the state.

Region Six Office of Public Health Director Dr. David Holcombe spoke in part on the disparities in health outcomes in racial demographics. The COVID-19 pandemic put a spotlight on the inequity in health outcomes based on race, as Black people are more likely to die from the virus compared to their White peers.

Dr. Holcombe presented a map that showed the worst health outcomes in Louisiana are in parishes that correspond with regions that had the greatest percentage of enslaved people.

“There have been some unfortunate consistencies in poor health outcomes,” said Dr. Holcombe. “So Louisiana invariably is 48, 49, or 50, in compared to other states. But when you look at the parishes within Louisiana, then those at the bottom of the barrel as far as their outcomes happen to correspond with those places that had a high percentage of slave populations in 1860.”

Another topic covered at the forum was the spread of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.

Louisiana has seen confirmed cases of HIV drop to under 1,000 in years prior to the pandemic. During the pandemic, the number of confirmed cases of HIV in Louisiana actually decreased. This is because regular testing was not being done due to the pandemic.

Now, Louisiana is expected to see a spike in confirmed HIV cases as well as other STIs now that regular testing has resumed.

“We are starting to see as things get back to normal as people are starting to access healthcare again like they normally would, those numbers are really starting to increase,” said Kristina Larson, Hepatitis Surveillance Supervisor for the Office Of Public Health. “So, it will be interesting to see what happens over the next few years. I think the preliminary data shows that there will be some fairly larges increases in STIs and HIV.”

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