The number of HIV cases diagnosed in the state of Louisiana has dropped.

In fact, Louisiana has reported the lowest number of HIV cases in a decade.

According to the state Department of Health, new transmissions have dropped 12 percent in three years.

Of the 989 cases diagnosed in 2018, three-quarters, or 70 percent, were African American male. Twenty-three percent of those diagnosed were white; six percent Hispanic; one percent Asian; and the final one percent were people of multiple races.

U.S. health officials and HIV experts are beginning to talk about a future in which transmission in the United States could be halted. And that future, they say, could come not within a generation, but in the span of just a few years.

"I feel as though we will actually see the end of HIV in our lifetime," Fran Lawless, director of the Office of Health Policy & AIDS funding, told The Advocate newspaper. "I think that's just on the horizon. This year is the first that I felt that might actually come to fruition."

The drop in HIV cases is being attributed to the expansion of Medicaid. The biggest hurdle now, according to the Office of Public Health, is overcoming the stigma.

The stigma remains for people living with HIV. Removing that stigma can start with how the community talks about HIV.

Health officials recommend everyone in the state get tested at least once for HIV; more if the person is at an increased risk.

Exposing another person to HIV without their consent is against Louisiana law.

To keep rates down, making sure people continue their treatment is also a hurdle.

Today we have the ability to treat, suppress and prevent HIV. But for this approach to work, people need to get tested and know their status.

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