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Chicago Sees Lowest HIV Diagnoses in Decades

Photo by Chait Goli

Illinois officials hope to see the last HIV diagnosis by 2030.

The Chicago Department of Public Health’s latest HIV/STI data report from 2020 showed that HIV diagnoses in Chicago were at their lowest reported rates since 1987.

According to WTTW, Dr. Irina Tabidze, director of program operations for the public health’s syndemic infectious disease bureau, said, “What is really exciting is that decreases are seen across all races, ethnicities, across age groups as well, and genders.”

She also suggested caution when interpreting the numbers, as the data was collected during the pandemic and it was possible that some numbers were underreported.

Despite the drop in cases, young Black and Latino Chicagoans still face disproportionate numbers in newer infections compared to other groups. The 2020 report revealed that Black Chicagoans made up nearly 55 percent of the new cases, with Hispanic Chicagoans accounting for 23 percent and white Chicagoans around 11 percent. 

Education from public health officials is thought to have had a significant impact on sexual health decisions — from condoms to PrEP to U=U — to the younger generations.

Dr. Aniruddha Hazra, an assistant professor specializing in infectious diseases and global health at the University of Chicago, said, “We can have the best HIV medicines in the world, world-class institutions in the city, but if folks can’t get to that care for whatever reason, then it really doesn’t have any worth.”

The report also showed that 61 percent of HIV-positive Chicagoans achieved viral suppression in 2020, up from 50 percent in 2019. Viral suppression paves the way for HIV-positive people to lead healthy lives and for it to become virtually impossible for them to transmit the disease.

Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker introduced a plan in 2019 to help Illinois get to a “functional zero” point where the HIV epidemic can no longer sustain itself. 

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