Men Who Have Sex with Men and African Americans Addressed at Annual HIV/STD Conference
HIV/STD advocates gather to discuss the latest in prevention,
research and treatment
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Populations most at risk for HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and STDs (sexually transmitted disease), men who have sex with men (MSM) and African Americans, are among the topics for this year’s 17th annual HIV/STD conference, “A New Frontier: Integrating Medicine, Services & Technology.”
“We have made significant headway in educating the public about HIV and STDs, as well as advancements in treatment, but there is still work to do to reduce the number of infected persons, especially among men who have sex with men and African Americans. Sharing ideas about educational programs, research and treatment is instrumental in eliminating the spread of HIV and STDs, and in developing new treatments to help those infected with these diseases live longer, healthier lives,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Illinois Department of Public Health Director.
Approximately 500 healthcare professionals, counselors, public health officials and social workers are expected to attend the three-day conference to gather new ideas and information. The conference is an opportunity for participants to foster connections across disciplinary lines to share effective prevention approaches and research findings; to examine state-of-the-art medical management of HIV and STDs; to strategize about the best ways to get services to those in need; and to learn about current and emerging policy issues.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the recent overall increase in HIV diagnoses for MSM, coupled with racial disparities, strongly points to a continued need for appropriate prevention and education services tailored for specific subgroups of MSM, especially those who are members of minority races/ethnicities.
Illinois is seeing this same trend with the highest mode of transmission of HIV/AIDS in men who have sex with men, and African Americans being the race most affected by HIV/AIDS.
As of August 2008, there were 35,239 (18,102 HIV; 17,137 AIDS) people reported as living with HIV/AIDS in Illinois.
Since taking office, the Governor’s commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS has been unrivaled. He has created the BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) campaign to address the disease in the AfricanAmerican community, implemented the greatest expansion of the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) and granted millions of dollars to help with housing for those living with HIV/AIDS.
Some sexually transmitted diseases have also increased recently in Illinois. During 2007, a total of 55,470 cases of chlamydia were reported in Illinois, making it the most frequently reported infectious disease. Females accounted for 75 percent (41,733 of 55,470) of reported cases.
“Especially alarming is the fact that Illinois adolescents age 15 to 19 accounted for 34 percent, or 19,085 of 55,470, of all reported cases in 2007. If women are not treated for chlamydia, they often face infertility and medical complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease and pregnancy outside the uterus. It is important for communities to work together to help prevent the high rate of infection among women and adolescents,” said Dr. Arnold.
IDPH encourages healthcare providers to test all sexually active females 15 to 25 years of age at least annually for chlamydia. IDPH, in collaboration with school based health centers, family planning clinics, adult and juvenile correctional centers and other agencies serving females at increased risk for chlamydia infection, performed more than 170,000 tests for chlamydia during 2007 in order to halt disease transmission by identifying and treating infected persons.
Reducing health disparities among racial and ethnic groups has been a major initiative of IDPH for the past several years. Despite progress in a number of areas, gonorrhea continues to disproportionately affect African Americans. While accounting for only 15 percent of the population in Illinois, African Americans accounted for 75 percent (15,620 of 20,813) of total reported gonorrhea cases in 2007. By the end of 2008, IDPH plans on implementing pilot projects in six Illinois communities to reduce the high rate of gonorrhea among African Americans.
IDPH, in partnership with local health departments, ensures STD diagnostic and treatment services are accessible throughout Illinois; monitors and responds to sexually transmitted disease trends ensuring that persons infected with STDs receive appropriate treatment, counseling and referral; conducts screening programs; funds innovative community based initiatives to prevent and contain STDs such as the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District's Mobile Health Vans and the Howard Brown Health Center's Out Reach Testing and Education Services in suburban Cook County and special STD prevention grants to 22 local health departments with high rates of chlamydia; provides vaccinations for hepatitis A and B to persons attending STD clinics; and provides technical assistance and training to healthcare providers regarding STD testing, treatment and follow-up.
The number of reported syphilis cases decreased one percent in 2007 compared to 2006, but this disease is still a problem in Illinois and disproportionately affects males. Men accounted for 92 percent of reported infectious syphilis cases in 2007, and men self-reporting as men who have sex with men represented 69 percent of the male cases.
“Untreated syphilis can lead to serious long-term complications and death. Persons infected with infectious syphilis can more easily acquire or transmit HIV. During 2007, 58 percent of cases of infectious syphilis among men who have sex with men were co-infected with HIV. Persons infected with both syphilis and HIV also are more likely to develop complications from their syphilis and HIV infections. IDPH recommends all sexually active persons infected with HIV should be tested for syphilis and other STDs at least annually,” said Dr. Arnold.
For more information, call the Illinois HIV/AIDS and STD hotline 1-800-243-2437 during the following hours: M-F 9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., Weekends 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m., or visit http://www.idph.state.il.us/