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AFC holds Getting to Zero draft-plan webinar with stakeholders
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2019-01-02

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AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ) held a Getting to Zero ( GTZ ) Illinois project draft plan webinar Dec. 19 with community stakeholders. The project is coordinated by AFC and the Illinois and Chicago Departments of Public Health and has partnerships with a host of organizations, providers and agencies across the state.

GTZ Illinois Program Manager Sara Semelka and GTZ Illinois Project Specialist Meg McElroy led the discussion.

Semelka explained that the plan was created around two pillars: increasing PrEP uptake and viral suppression by 20 percent points each. She said that if these two goals are accomplished there could be less than 100 new HIV cases by 2030, a functional zero where the epidemic cannot sustain itself.

In terms of getting people to take PrEP, Semelka said that currently only 10-20 percent of people who need to take it are doing so and populations most vulnerable to HIV—Black gay men, trans women of color and Black women—are not aware of the drug or are not taking it. Semelka said the goal is to root out why this is occurring so more people take PrEP who need it.

As for increasing the numbers of people living with undetectable HIV viral loads, Semelka explained that only 50 percent of people with HIV are currently virally suppressed. Semelka said that increasing that number means more people will live longer, healthier lives. She also explained that people who have undetectable viral loads for at least six months cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners.

Semelka explained what they did in 2018 to build the plan and McElroy said that in addition to the draft plan, they are currently in the public comment ( survey ) period which ends Friday, Jan. 18.

McElroy said that after they get the survey results they will share it with the steering committee members and then decide how to incorporate that feedback into the final GTZ Illinois Plan which will be released in early 2019.

The five principals that drove this draft plan, McElroy explained, were eliminating stigma, undoing racist systems, providing trauma-informed care, having cultural humility and being outcomes-driven which means having functional zero new HIV cases and zero people living with HIV who are not on treatment.

Both Semelka and McElroy outlined GTZ Illinois' six domains that flowed from the five principals of the plan using the WHEELS acronym—workforce, health care, equity, efficiency increases through governmental coordination, linked or co-occurring conditions including access to behavioral health care and surveillance and data measuring of the plan's progress.

Semelka said building the HIV healthcare workforce is key and that includes learning new approaches for people living with or vulnerable to HIV. She explained that this also includes finding employment opportunities for people living with HIV who are able to work.

McElroy explained that increasing access to healthcare services for people living with HIV is key and that includes outreach, education and marketing as well as HIV screening and medication use.

In the equity category, Semelka outlined the nine special-focus populations they are targeting—gay and bisexual men with a focus on Black and Latinx men, Black cisgender women, transgender people, people who use drugs, people who involved with the criminal justice system, adolescents and youth, immigrants and migrants, sex workers and people living with HIV who are aging, long-term survivors and older adults.

To read more about the draft plan and/or participate in the survey, visit https://gtzillinois.hiv/plan-draft-2/ and www.surveymonkey.com/r/9TZFXGT .


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