An effort to educate and mobilize the Baton Rouge Community to address HIV/AIDS began in the late eighties. Dr. James Hines, III was a resident at Tulane University working on his Master’s Degree in Public Health. His focus was on community health. He encouraged the State to allow him to develop and bring an HIV prevention program to Baton Rouge to start HIV/AIDS prevention activities in the community. Dr. Hines then met with the late Larry B. Griffin, who was the Executive Director of South Baton Rouge Community Development Association, Inc. (SBRCDA), which was housed in the Dr. Leo S. Butler Community Center. The program was named South Baton Rouge Health Education, under SBRCDA, Inc. and was the first agency to address HIV prevention and testing in Baton Rouge. The agency staff was very instrumental in assisting with the development of Friends for Life (the first agency to offer services and support in the community for HIV positive clients), which is no longer in service. SBRCDA closed in 1991. The Health Education Program’s HIV/AIDS component was very successful, and the State wanted to continue the prevention activities started with HIV.
The late Mr. Melvin Aaron, former Program Director of the Health Education Program, and Shirley Lolis (former Health Educator) signed individual contracts with the State in 1991 to continue the prevention activities in the community and created and operated under the name of Metro Health. In 1992, Metro wanted to expand and receive a federal grant to have outreach in the community. To assist in this endeavor, Metro asked that a component be developed under the Baton Rouge Black Alcoholism Council, where Mr. William Jackson was board president and Mr. Aaron was a board member, and that the name Metro Health be retained since the name was already well known in the community. Metro worked diligently to build community relationships and recruit partners. BRBAC’s Metro Health worked with the Office of Public Health to develop and expand HAART, HIV/AIDS Alliance for Region II, which is now the largest agency in Baton Rouge providing medical/treatment, case management, housing, and other support services for HIV positive clients. Today, BRBAC’s Metro Health is the largest prevention agency in Baton Rouge which also provides case management and support services for clients who are HIV positive and/or have a sexually transmitted infection. In the atmosphere of change, it is great to see a change coming in this field. With strong commitment to continuing extensive research on medicines such as PrEP and PEP, treatments to stop the replication of the virus in the immune system and continuing to reach and strengthen the community with knowledge, tools and a caring, helping hand, positive change is definitely going to come!