Sometimes, you just have to brag. We at STAR are doing amazing things, and we want to share our progress and positive experiences with you.
Sexual violence occurs at epidemic levels, with someone in the U.S. sexually assaulted every 2 minutes, and Baton Rouge is not exempt. Supporting survivors in our community is a big task, and while we at STAR work tirelessly to assist survivors the best that we can, we can’t do it alone.
For this month’s Services Spotlight, we’d like to spotlight a local organization whose partnership is vital to our goal of supporting survivors: HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region Two (HAART).
HAART supports survivors
HAART’s mission is to provide affordable quality health care to our community. HAART offers a complete continuum of care to people living with HIV/AIDS, including housing, primary care, medications, case management, and an array of supportive services. HAART also provides HIV prevention education and free testing to the Baton Rouge area.
In addition to this wide array of services, HAART also collaborates with STAR to help survivors reduce the risk of acquiring HIV after a sexual assault by providing free access to prophylaxis medications. Not only is this beneficial to survivors’ physical health, but it can also provide comfort and ease of mind—giving survivors one less source of anxiety as they begin their healing journey.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is an anti-HIV medication taken within three days after exposure to HIV in order to reduce the chance of becoming HIV positive. Survivors who are at risk of acquiring HIV from their assailant can opt to take this medication in order to prevent the virus from spreading and infecting them. Survivors are not required to take a forensic exam or report to law enforcement in order to access this medication. They can contact STAR or HAART directly, within 72 hours of their assault, if they believe they have been exposed to HIV.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
While PEP medication can be used as an emergency medication once someone has been exposed to HIV, community members who are more at-risk of acquiring this virus may benefit from taking PREP. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP) is a daily medication that prevents the acquisition of HIV. HAART has recently launched an outreach campaign to bring community awareness to this revolutionary drug.
HIV and AIDS
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). A person is diagnosed with AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections. It is the final stage of HIV infection. While HIV/AIDS is treatable, there is currently no official cure.
In the United States, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 8 (12.8%) are unaware of their infection.
The city of Baton Rouge is ranked second highest in AIDS cases and fourth highest rates of HIV. New Orleans has the fifth highest rates of HIV in the U.S. Knowing this, it is important to be educated on this issue.
High-risk and disproportionately affected populations include:
- Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men
- Heterosexual African American men and women
- Heterosexual Hispanic/Latino(a) men and women
- Heterosexual white women
- Injection drug users
Ways that community members can protect themselves from contracting and spreading HIV include:
- Speak openly with partners about safer sex techniques and HIV status.
- If you don’t know your status, get an HIV test to protect yourself and others.
- Use a latex condom with each oral, anal or vaginal sexual encounter. Those with latex allergies should use latex-free condoms.
- Do not share needles or syringes if you inject drugs.
- HIV infected pregnant women should practice regular prenatal care.
- HIV infected women should not breast feed.
Knowledge is power
HIV/AIDS and sexual trauma are public health and safety concerns. In order to create a safer and healthier community, we must actively work to educate ourselves and support our community members affected by these issues. Contact HAART to access their services, to learn more information on HIV/AIDS, and to get involved in their mission to provide affordable, quality health care to our community. If you are a survivor of sexual trauma and need assistance, call our 24/7 hotline at 1-888-435-STAR.