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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Providers launch statewide plan to stop new HIV infections
by Matt Simonette
2018-12-12

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AIDS Foundation of Chicago ( AFC ), Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH ) and Chicago Department of Public Health ( CDPH ), all in conjunction with numerous other agencies and organizations, officially launched their Getting to Zero initiative Dec. 3, and are asking the public to weigh in.

The project, whose kickoff at the DuSable Museum of African American History was timed to coincide with World AIDS Day a few days prior, aims to eliminate all new HIV-transmissions in Illinois by the year 2030, utilizing a two-pronged effort that both encourages at-risk Illinoisans to use the PrEP ( pre-exposure prophylaxis ) intervention and quickly directs persons with HIV to a continuum of care.

AFC President and CEO John Peller called Getting to Zero a "tremendous collaborative process" that's the culmination of work on the parts of 100 people across the state, adding that, "What's still amazing to me is that we can end the HIV epidemic in 11 years….but it's going to take focused work and challenge business as usual."

Peller acknowledged that myriad challenges remain, noting that recent data released by CDPH shows overall new HIV transmissions on the decline—with 752 new cases in 2017, the lowest number since 1990—but still are disproportionately high among young gay people of color in particular.

"That's a very strong signal that we're not doing something right," Peller noted. He also named anti-gay and anti-HIV stigma as further challenges, as well as cultural competency among among health and service providers. Furthermore, stakeholders will have to address intertwined cultural and social determinants of health, such as housing stability, access to transportation and employment.

In a statement accompanying the Dec. 7 release of CDPH's data, CDPH Program Operations Director Jorge Cestou said, "We acknowledge that there is more work to be done to get to 'functional zero.' We also see this as an opportunity to strengthen our partnership and work even harder [toward] ensuring that all Chicagoans have equitable access to the care that they need."

Getting to Zero stakeholders have published the draft plan and framework on the project's website and are soliciting public feedback through Jan. 18 so as to address various community concerns that may have been overlooked and ensure the robustness of the project.

See gtzillinois.hiv/ .


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