While HIV rates are declining, STIs are on the rise across the city, according to 2019 HIV/STI Surveillance Report
Chicago, IL – Dec. 23, 2019 – Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced that new HIV diagnoses in Chicago has hit a record low, continuing a trend of four consecutive years of declines. A total of 734 new HIV diagnoses were reported among Chicago residents in 2018 – the lowest number since 1988. This represents a 60% reduction in new annual cases since 2001 and a 19% reduction since 2014.
“A world where we end the HIV epidemic is within our reach, and these latest findings prove that Chicago is on track to end the HIV epidemic by 2030,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “Chicagoans will not rest until we achieve functional zero, meaning we will continue to increase access to care and services, expand our work with community partners and strengthen the quality of life for every city resident.”
CDPH’s 2019 HIV/STI Surveillance Report shows that a total of 23,580 individuals in Chicago were living with HIV through the end of 2017, the year for which most current data are available. This represents only a 2% increase in people living with HIV (PLWH) compared to 2016. While more people are living longer, healthier lives with HIV, the significant reduction in new HIV diagnoses over the last five years likely contributes to the slowing increase in living cases.
In addition, the report found that 81% of newly-diagnosed persons were linked to care within one month of diagnosis. Among all PLWH in 2018, 68% accessed care and 41% were retained in medical care. Also, 52% of PLWH in Chicago achieved viral suppression in 2018, compared to 48% in 2017.
“Our funding follows the epidemic to ensure resources are allocated to areas and populations with the greatest needs,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Allison Arwady, MD, MPH. “Through integration of funding and programing, we can reach more people and make sure no one falls through the cracks.”
HIV continues to disproportionately impact certain groups more than others, including males; gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men; and Black communities. CDPH is addressing the challenges and barriers experienced by these groups through its HIV Services Portfolio, which is awarding more than $40 million annually to over 60 community-based and healthcare organizations beginning in 2019. In alignment with the state’s Getting to Zero initiative, these funds are intended to achieve two primary outcomes: increase viral suppression among persons living with HIV and increase use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a one-pill-a-day program that prevents HIV infection among those vulnerable to HIV.
While HIV rates are declining, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are at an all-time high across the nation, and Chicago mirrors that trend. Numbers reported to CDPH in 2018: 30,608 chlamydia cases – the highest to date; 12,679 gonorrhea cases – the highest since the early 2000s; and 877 primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis cases. Although there has been a national increase in congenital syphilis, in 2018 there were 11 congenital syphilis cases reported in Chicago, the lowest number of cases in the past five years. The report also found that:
- Individuals aged 20-29 years old were the most frequently diagnosed group for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and P&S syphilis.
- The number of reported STIs is higher among non-Hispanic Blacks and those living in community areas with high economic hardship.
“There is an urgent need for action, and CDPH is working on multiple fronts to break the cycle of STI increases,” said David Kern, CDPH Deputy Commissioner for HIV/STI. “We will continue working closely with communities, providers and researchers to strengthen STI prevention efforts and advance policies and practices that support full attainment of sexual health and wellness for everyone, particularly those who are most vulnerable.”
To address STI health disparities, Mayor Lightfoot and CDPH launched a syphilis task force as the first step of a multiyear initiative to curb STIs across the city. The syphilis task force is comprised of medical and community experts and will create a comprehensive action plan to reduce new P&S syphilis cases, the most infectious stages of disease in men and pregnant women. Future task forces will be named to create recommendations for reducing chlamydia and gonorrhea infections, primarily among non-Hispanic Black youth and young adults.
The city currently operates three STI walk-in clinics in Austin, Lakeview, and Roseland that provide STI testing and treatment at no cost. Residents can also pick up free condoms and learn more about other HIV prevention methods like PrEP. In addition, through a collaboration with the Chicago Public Schools, CDPH provides sexual health education and STI screening to young people across the city.
Elena Ivanova firstname.lastname@example.org