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Collaborative Approach Used to Wipe Out Syphilis
by D. Kevin McNeir
2003-04-01

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With the dubious distinction of leading the nation in new syphilis cases in 2000 with a rate nearly three times higher than the national average, the city of Chicago has combined community -based organizations, private organizations and the Department of Public Health in an all-out effort to eliminate the disease from the community.

Now under the auspices of the Chicago Syphilis Elimination Task Force, a tool to counter this health crisis has been unveiled with a compelling new documentary, Tracking Syphilis: Countdown to Elimination. The film takes a never-before-seen view of the innovative efforts by the Chicago Department of Public Health, who has collaborated with a large coalition of health and social organizations in their efforts to rid the city of this disease.

Last year, gay men made up 57 percent of newly reported syphilis cases, a disturbing statistic given that the presence of syphilis increases the chance of contracting HIV by as much as five times. And while the outbreak has not yet been halted, and while similar statistics have been reported in other metropolitan cities like New York City and Los Angeles, initiatives like those by Chicago's Task Force have succeeded in slowing it down.

The documentary is one of several initiatives that have been developed to help meet the U.S. Centers for Disease Control's goal of complete syphilis elimination in the U.S. by 2005.

The documentary, previewed last month at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, goes behind the scenes with disease control investigators from the city's STD/HIV Prevention and Care Program and with several members of the Task Force. The University of Illinois-Chicago's Community Outreach Intervention Program, Howard Brown Health Center and Steamworks, a North Side gay bathhouse, are all featured players.

The educational video is available free to all Chicago-area community health organizations and is part of a larger media campaign that includes a nine-minute educational video and print media.

For information contact Janice Norwood, director, STD/ HIV Prevention and Care Programs, CDPH, (312) 747-0128.


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