In 2016, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals, the state’s official agency for health and human services, announced that there were “more than 100 voodoo-related deaths in Louisiana in 2017 alone.”
But what is voodoo?
And how did the Louisiana voodoo boom come to a halt?
The short answer: it all started with a single incident in 2005.
The Louisiana State Medical Examiner’s Office says it was a case of a patient who had a suspected infection.
According to a Louisiana State Police report, the patient died of “a suspected case of HIV/AIDS” and a blood transfusion.
According the AP, the case report said, the blood sample tested positive for HIV.
The patient’s family said he was a practicing voodoo practitioner, and that he had been hospitalized for a period of time due to a case in which he had injected a patient with a needle.
A few days after the patient’s death, the AP reported that a man who had been working in the Louisiana home of the deceased had been infected with HIV.
He told the AP he had “heard a lot of rumors” that people who were living in Louisiana had contracted HIV, and he wanted to help.
“He was saying he was doing this for the people, because he knew the people,” the man told the news outlet.
He said he had no idea that HIV infections were becoming more common in Louisiana.
But in 2017, that man’s story made headlines around the country.
He was among the thousands of people who signed up for a “trial period” to see if they were HIV positive.
According a news release from the Louisiana State Department of Public Health, more than 100 Louisiana residents were tested for HIV in 2017.
The state’s Public Health Department did not say how many people were tested, nor did it provide a timeline for the testing.
But that didn’t stop news outlets from writing articles about the trials.
In the days following the man’s death in 2018, stories in the New York Times and CNN began to report that Louisiana was the “New York City of HIV” because of the surge of HIV testing.
“It’s a big, big story,” said Dr. Steven Ostrovsky, a physician and director of the Louisiana HIV Program.
Ostrovsky said Louisiana had been “the hub of the epidemic,” with the number of people living with HIV in the state nearly doubling from the previous year.
“We’re seeing a lot more people with HIV being tested than in other states,” he said.
“But it’s not all going to come out.”
Ostroviksy said it was “very important” that those who were testing were able to “have the resources and be able to access the testing” because the “quality is low.”
He said Louisiana was a place where many people who needed to be tested were not being tested because the testing facilities weren’t located in the city, which means “it’s not as prevalent as we might think it is.”
But it was not just Louisiana that had a huge HIV outbreak.
A week after the man died, in December 2018, a man in Florida was diagnosed with HIV, according to a report from NBC affiliate WPLG.
The Florida Herald reported that his condition was so bad he could not drive, had lost his ability to walk and had a history of seizures.
It said that the man, who had tested negative for HIV, had “multiple other health problems that contributed to his death.”
The Herald reported he was homeless and living with his mother and grandmother in a motel room in Jacksonville, Florida.
The Herald also reported that he and his mother had recently moved into a hotel room with other HIV-positive people in Jacksonville.
The man was found dead inside the room, which was located in an apartment complex.
Florida Health said that after reviewing the medical records of the man and his wife, the agency determined the man had tested positive to HIV but did not disclose that fact to the family.
A month later, in November 2019, another Florida man was diagnosed as HIV-negative, the Herald reported.
The newspaper said the man was staying at the hotel of a family member who was HIV-free.
The woman’s father and stepmother had moved in with the family and had tested HIV-unclear.
According “the Herald,” the Herald’s story included this information: “The family did not have a medical insurance policy and the man could not afford to pay for a test.”
A month after that, another woman in Texas died after being tested negative to HIV.
“She did not get tested because she was not living in a home that was HIV negative,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
In March 2020, another man died after contracting HIV in Alabama.
According an ABC News report, authorities were called to a home in Birmingham after a woman living there tested negative.
The police department said that two people were present at the home,