June 27, 2008
State public health department teams up with Center on Halsted in recognition of National HIV Testing Day
Illinois Department of Public Health cautions groups most at-risk for HIV infection – men who have sex with men and African Americans
CHICAGO, Ill. – In recognition of National HIV Testing Day, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) teamed up with the Center on Halsted in Chicago today to encourage HIV/AIDS education and testing. In Illinois, African-American men who have sex with men (MSM), and African-American women are the two populations at highest risk for new HIV infections according to the latest statistics. National HIV Testing Day is an annual campaign sponsored by the National Association of People with AIDS to encourage voluntary HIV counseling and testing.
“HIV counseling and testing enables people with HIV to take steps to protect their own health and that of their partners. National HIV Testing Day is a great opportunity for people who test negative to get the information they need to stay uninfected and pass it along to friends and family. The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested,” said Dr. Damon T. Arnold, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “People need to be aware of HIV/AIDS in their community, learn about how the disease is transmitted and what risky behaviors to avoid.”
“Thanks to the support of the Illinois Department of Public Health, Center on Halsted is able to commemorate National HIV Testing Day with a free seminar and free, rapid HIV testing. Our new HIV Testing and Prevention Program furthers the Center's deep commitment to help the citizens of Illinois who are affected by HIV/AIDS through counseling, testing, prevention information and referrals,” said Modesto Valle, Executive Director for Center on Halsted. “Every day, people in Illinois are becoming infected with HIV and everyday we are losing friends and family members to this pandemic. We must have compassion while at the same time arm ourselves with the knowledge to protect ourselves and those we care about.
There are more than one million people in the United States living with HIV and one-fourth of them do not know they are HIV-infected according to the U.S. Department of Health and Humans Services. More than 40,000 Americans are infected with HIV each year.
“For whatever reason, fear, ignorance or something else, thousand of people are not getting tested for HIV. We need to break through these obstacles, the stigmas, and make sure people are educated about how HIV is transmitted, how they can protect themselves and the importance of testing since there are so many effective HIV medications that can help people lead healthier, longer lives,” said Rep. Greg Harris, (D-Chicago).
“People infected with HIV/AIDS are now living longer thanks to improved treatment. But all these new and improved treatments can’t help if people don’t know they are infected, which is why it is so important to get tested, routinely,” said Rep. Sara Feigenholtz, (D-Chicago).
A Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) analysis of data collected from 2001 to 2006 of HIV diagnoses among men who have sex with men (MSM) indicates troubling signs of increases in new diagnoses among young MSM aged 13-24. This increase underscores the significant impact of the disease among young MSM, especially young black MSM. Approximately twice as many diagnoses occurred among young black MSM as their white counterparts. This data underscores the need for expanded access to HIV prevention among young MSM, especially young black MSM.
Illinois is following the same trend as the rest of the nation. In 2007, 46 percent (858) of all HIV reported cases in Illinois (1,858) were African-American; 71 percent (606) of which were men. Of the 606 African-American men reporting HIV in 2007, 50 percent (305) reporting having had sex with men. MSM was the highest mode of transmission representing 50 percent (920) of all reported HIV cases in 2007.
Reported HIV cases for 2007 in Illinois decreased by 328 cases from the previous year (2,186). (Numbers are provisional and are subject to change.) Almost 34 percent (638) of reported HIV cases in Illinois for 2007 were white, non-Hispanic and almost 12 percent (219) were Hispanic. Men accounted for 79 percent (1,464) of all reported HIV cases in Illinois for 2007 while women accounted for 21 percent (394). A majority of the cases, 86 percent (1,600) were reported in the Chicago Metropolitan area, which includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties, while the remaining 14 percent (258) were reported downstate. Men who have sex with men followed by intravenous drug use were the leading causes of reported HIV infections among men in Illinois. Women reported high risk heterosexual contact followed by intravenous drug use as the leading causes of reported HIV infections for 2007.
People of color are disproportionately affected by the disease. In 2005, African Americans, who make up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for almost half of the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25 to 34.
In an effort to eliminate the disparity in the number of African Americans infected with HIV/AIDS, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich launched the BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) campaign in September 2005. BASUAH focuses on education, prevention and testing and targets African Americans by specifically funding interventions that are designed to decrease new infections. One component of BASUAH is the Wellness on Wheels mobile health vans which travel to communities across Illinois and offer HIV testing.
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 www.basuah.org or www.idph.state.il.us.
of Public Health
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Springfield, Illinois 62761
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