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Chicago sees fewest new HIV infections in decades
by Matt Simonette
2018-12-05

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According to Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ), the City of Chicago saw 752 new HIV infections in 2017.

"The Illinois Department of Public Health [IDPH] is committed to getting to zero new infections in the next decade, so these kind of figures fit into that," said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD.

This number is among surveillance figures CDPH was scheduled to release the week of Dec. 3. Among other key statistics for 2017, about 48 percent of persons living with HIV in Chicago were able to achieve viral suppression through medication, at which point there was little likelihood that they would transmit the virus to others.

Among those newly diagnosed, about 82 percent were linked to a provider within one month of diagnosis, and 92 percent were linked to a provider within 12 months, according to the repor

"Our testing ability has been the same, since we have 'opt-out' testing now," added Morita. "People don't have to give [specific] consent to have HIV tests done, so overall, over time our numbers of test have actually increased. … But we're always looking for the opportunities to do more and do better, so while we're thrilled about the decrease in numbers of HIV diagnoses, we know that there are certain populations that are at greater risk for [new transmissions]."

Persons who are ages 20-29 years old were the most frequently diagnosed group, representing some 38 percent of new diagnoses. Non-Hispanic Black individuals were the most frequently diagnosed population—representing 54.8 percent of new HIV diagnoses, 64 percent of AIDS diagnoses and 55.2 of late diagnoses. Additionally, men who have sex with men ( MSM ) represented 3.9 times as many new infections than persons reporting heterosexual or intravenous transmissions.

"As we work on getting to zero, we are really going to focus on those populations to know that there is HIV-testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis [PrEP] available," said Morita.

Highest rates of new infection were seen in individuals residing in the Uptown, Chatham and Washington Park neighborhoods; the highest rates of persons living with HIV overall were in the Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park and South Shore neighborhoods.

In addition to reducing the new HIV transmission-rates even further in years ahead, CDPH is faced with high transmission rates of other sexually transmitted infections ( STI ). In 2017, there were 30,292 chlamydia cases, the highest number in a year reported to date. Additionally there were 11,720 new gonorrhea cases, the highest number since 2009, and 788 primary and secondary syphilis cases, a number that has plateaued in recent years.

Morita said those numbers are parallel with reports from other cities and noted that CDPH has an information campaign in effect to educate residents about the issue.

"Part of it is making people aware, especially younger people, so that they know that they should get treatment and care," she noted. "…It's a matter of making people aware, and de-stigmatizing seeking care, whether it's for HIV, chlamydia or gonorrhea, we want people to get into care or treatment."

Morita added that city health officials and other stakeholders have been trying to apply a more comprehensive address to the HIV epidemic, one that tackles social determinants of health in addition to specific medical interventions.

"We're trying to take that and apply that to other areas of health as well," said Morita.


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