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CDPH campaign includes $18 million investment in local agencies and new social media effort to encourage individuals living with HIV to seek vital care

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has launched HIV Treatment Works – a new effort to encourage HIV positive individuals across the city to seek treatment and to build the capacity of local organizations to provide care, helping to reduce the impact of HIV and AIDS. The effort includes a $17.9 million initial investment in 44 community organizations and health centers to provide medical care and other essential support services to residents living with HIV/AIDS, as well as a citywide media campaign targeted to HIV-positive individuals not currently in care.

“Chicago is winning the fight against HIV and AIDS and today we are closer than ever to victory,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita. “HIV treatment works by helping HIV-positive people live longer, healthier lives and by stopping the spread of HIV.”

When taken correctly, HIV medicines lead to viral suppression, reducing the amount of HIV in the blood to an undetectable level, preventing complications from developing and making it harder to transmit the virus to others. According to CDPH’s 2014 Surveillance Report, 80 percent of Chicagoans newly diagnosed with HIV were linked to care within three months, 80 percent of whom achieved viral suppression, both above national averages. Over half of HIV-positive Chicago residents received medical care in 2011, compared to only 40 percent nationally.

“Viral suppression is already a reality for thousands of Chicago residents,” said Nanette Benbow, CDPH deputy commissioner, HIV/STI services. “We continue to work with partners in the community to reach every Chicagoan who has fallen out of care so they can have the help and support they need to share the same success.”

The $17.9 million investment will be used by partners to provide primary care and support services like mental health services, housing and home-delivered meals to HIV-positive residents. Funded services were prioritized through CDPH’s HIV planning body, Chicago Area HIV Integrated Services Council (CAHISC). This year, CDPH will work directly with agencies on the ground to identify and engage individuals not currently in care and on medication.

“Our clients benefit directly from our CDPH funding,” said Cheryl Potts, executive director of Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance and co-chair of CAHISC. “When state funding is in question, it is good to know that clients will continue to receive the recovery and occupational therapy services they need to break the cycles of poverty and homelessness and increase their access to life-saving HIV treatment.”

The marketing component of the campaign will also encourage individuals living with HIV to seek vital care and connect them with valuable online resources so they can engage in care. The campaign was developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and reflects the diversity of people living with HIV and shows how treatment and care empowers people to lead healthier lives and stops the spread of HIV. The campaign includes personal stories about how the participants overcame barriers to care and treatment and provides advice for others living with HIV.

“It wasn’t easy finding out I had HIV, but deciding to start and stick to my treatment has helped me live a happier, healthier life,” said Aaron Laxton, who appears in the campaign ads. “The idea of starting treatment can be daunting, but it’s important to remember you aren’t alone – and that by taking HIV medication every day and seeing your doctor regularly, you can stay healthy and keep doing the things you love.”

The campaign includes online, print and transit ads and can be seen here. Additionally, the campaign includes educational materials to be displayed in clinics and doctor’s offices around the city.

Funding for the campaign and awards is provided by the Health Resources and Services Administration through a partial award from the Ryan White Part A Grant. Additional funds may be available this year to further support delegate agencies. The 44 delegate agencies selected to provide services in 2015-2016 can be found here.