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Collaboration marks HIV-testing day event
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times

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On June 27—National HIV Testing Day—the "Step Up Get Tested: ChicaGO for 5K" campaign held an event at the Fantus Health Center Courtyard to celebrate its first-ever collaborative effort with a number of healthcare agencies.

Said healthcare agencies included the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, the Chicago Department of Public Health and other AIDS service organizations.

The goal of the event was to increase the number of people getting tested for HIV in the most underserved communities in Chicago by providing free, rapid HIV-testing services, prevention education and other resources. This year, more than 450 people were tested at the Fantus location June 27—a substantial increase from last year's 365 individuals.

The city-wide campaign aims to test 5,000 Chicago-area individuals during a series of testing events across the city through the month of June and is a part of "Healthy Chicago," the city's public health agenda that, among other things, has a goal of reducing new HIV infections by 25 percent.

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, there are about 20,000 people living with HIV in Chicago. Since about 20 percent of people infected with HIV are unaware of their status, the total number of people living with HIV in the city could be more than 25,000 people.

"There has been a big evolution in the care of HIV patients but the problem is to find everyone who is infected and get them treatment. We know that 50-70 percent of new infections are driven by the 25 percent of people who don't know their status," said Dr. Robert Weinstein, COO of the CORE Center. "It is clear that through routine screening we can find the patients who otherwise would never know their status. Testing is the first step in curbing the epidemic."

"We are excited to take part in this collaborative effort that focuses on raising awareness about the important of HIV testing and testing more people for HIV," said Jose Munoz deputy commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health. "There is not one solution to preventing HIV- but with combined efforts, we can achieve this goal."

Other dignitaries at the event included Peter McLoyd, consumer development and advocacy coordinator at the CORE Center; Marisol Gonzalez, director of prevention and education at the CORE Center; Hana Anderson from the Chicago Department of Public Health; and Cynthia Tucker and Anthony Galloway from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

There will be more testing June 28, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., at the HIV Testing Community Health Fair at Mt. Sinai, 1500 S. California Ave.; and June 30, 11 a.m.-3 p.m., at Feed, Clothe and Help the Needy hosted by Fantus Health Center, 1234 W. 59th St.

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