Last Modified: Monday, August 06, 2012 3:55 PM
The Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council has been an Elton John AIDS Foundation grantee since 2010, and it is featured in the singer’s recently released book, “Love is the Cure.”
“To have our program included is huge for us because in our field Sir Elton is a hero,” said Terry Estes, SLAC executive director.
“Not only is he a talented musician and entertainer that has universal appeal, he is a humanitarian held in the highest regard and because of this he has changed the course and face of AIDS.”
Estes said SLAC has provided social services to people living with AIDS/HIV, as well as prevention and education services to Southwest Louisiana for 25 years.
Through funding from the Elton John AIDS Foundation, Estes said SLAC was able to develop its FACT: Facilitating Access to Coordinated Treatment program.
“Funding from EJAF in 2010 was for the purpose of developing and implementing a pilot project that addressed linkage and access for people living with HIV/AIDS,” she said.
“The second and third renewals allowed for data collection and independent program monitoring and evaluation by the Louisiana Public Health Institute to determine its effectiveness.”
In his book John expresses his love for the South — where he said he spent much of his life — as well as Southwest Louisiana and the affect AIDS has in this “small corner of Louisiana.”
“There’s something magical about Southwest Louisiana. Cypress trees frame the haunting bayou. Flooded rice paddies and lonely prairies without a house or a living soul for miles,” he writes in his book.
“It’s one of the most rural places in America, and as much of rural America, there is a quiet but deadly AIDS crisis that has been simmering for decades.”
John goes on to talk about the dedication and compassion of those who make up SLAC.
“It’s easy to feel, as an individual, or even an organization, that we can’t make a difference,” he writes.
“But SLAC is an example of how a relatively small amount of money can go a really long way when compassion is at the center of our efforts.”
Estes said more than 1,000 people in Southwest Louisiana are living with HIV/AIDS.
Of that total, she said, 572 are living with AIDS, with 5 percent of those under 25 years old and 15 percent over 55.
“More than three-quarters of all HIV/AIDS cases are male,” Estes said. “The most frequent type of exposure is among men who have sex with men.”
She said that since the 1980s, there have been several “important changes” in the epidemic; she attributes them to more frequent screening, a better understanding of how HIV works in the body, the development of “combination medications,” and lab tests.
“The improvements in HIV clinical practices have led to an increased life expectancy for people living with HIV,” she said. “An HIV-positive person who follows his medical regimen and is adherent to care can reasonably expect to live close to a normal life span.”
Estes said that through the work of Dr. Carlos Choucino, medical director of the Comprehensive Care Clinic at Moss Regional, “this opportunity was possible.”
“He is a brilliant and respected physician, as well as a compassionate human being,” she said. “It is because of his commitment and dedication to helping people living with HIV/AIDS that this opportunity was possible, and we are very grateful for him.”
SLAC, 1715 Common St., offers HIV/AIDS education, free testing, case management services, a food pantry and support groups.
SLAC will partner with Stellar Beans on Aug. 25 to have a book reading and reception event and with Books-A-Million Sept. 22 for an all-day book promotion.
Posted By: VALORIE DENTON VICTORIAN On: 8/6/2012
HEY WAY TO GO. I'M PROUD TO READ THIS. MISS AND LOVE YOU GUYS. YOU ALL HAVE BEEN AWSON. (MAY HAVE SPELLED IT WRONG, BUT U KNOW WHAT I MEAN.) KEEP UP THE WORK.
Posted By: Terry L. Estes, Executive Director of SLAC On: 8/6/2012
Title: Southwest Louisiana AIDS Council
Thank you so much for the article on Elton John's new book and our association with it. We are so grateful to him and his staff at the Elton John AIDS Foundation and want to do whatever we can to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS and the great work he does.
Thank you Natalie for taking the time to write it. Dr. Choucino and I greatly appreciate it.