Today, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) released a new HIV behavioral surveillance report that highlights important behavioral trends among MSM in Chicago. The report shows that since 2008 there have been significant increases in HIV testing and improvements in access to HIV care services among key populations.
"The report's findings are hopeful signs that increased community mobilization, enhanced efforts in expanding HIV testing and linkage-to-care programs are having a positive impact on Chicago's HIV epidemic," said Chicago Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair, M.D.
"By combining surveillance and prevention efforts, we can more effectively work towards reducing the burden of disease in Chicago and enhance care options for those living with HIV."
The report compares findings from surveys conducted in 2008 and 2011 among MSM in Chicago. Data was collected through face-to-face surveys and HIV testing sites at over 100 community-based locations across Chicago. In total, over 1,000 men from over 60 Chicago community areas participated in the project.
The survey conducted in Chicago is part of the National Behavioral Surveillance System funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The system is the leading source of risk behavior and prevention utilization data on populations at highest risk of acquiring HIV.
The report also includes a special focus on HIV risk and prevention behavior among African American MSM youth, the only group currently experiencing annual increases in HIV infection.
Key findings in the report state that:
-Nearly all MSM (99%) in Chicago have been tested for HIV in their lifetime. Over half (57%) of Chicago MSM are currently meeting the CDC recommended guidelines of HIV testing at least annually. The highest rates of HIV testing were found among African American MSM youth (71%).
-More Chicago MSM are aware of their HIV status. In 2008, only half (50%) of HIV-positive MSM in Chicago were aware of their infection at the time of the survey. In the 2011 survey, that rate increased to 76% of HIV-positive MSM being aware of their infection. The largest increase in awareness occurred among African American MSM.
-More HIV-positive MSM are being linked to care and are on HIV treatment. In 2008, 44% of HIV positive African-American MSM surveyed reported taking HIV medications. By 2011, that rate had increased to 84%. Significant increases were also observed among White and Hispanic MSM during the same period.
Data collected as part of the HIV Behavioral Surveillance system in Chicago is an integral component of the CDPH LGBT Community Action Plan (LGBT CAP), a set of strategies, developed in conjunction with community stakeholders to focus on the specific health care needs of Chicago's LGBT Community. The action plan outlines methods to address disparities and health care access in the LGBT community.
Among its twenty-two strategies, LGBT CAP focuses on improving data collection, addressing violence, improving cultural competency among health care providers and improving overall inclusion of the LGBT community across the city in order to better connect members with health resources and information.
The LGBT Community Action Plan serves as a supplement to Healthy Chicago, the City's public health agenda.
Healthy Chicago focuses on public health issues and includes strategies with measurable outcomes that are specifically designed to engage communities, partners and other public health stakeholders in twelve priority areas, including HIV Prevention.