Chicago Phoenix (12.03.12)
The Chicago Department of Public Health presented a report at the 2012 Chicago LGBTQ Health and Wellness Conference on November 30. The report compared findings from the CDC-funded National HIV Behavioral Surveillance System surveys done in 2008 and 2011, and it shows a substantial increase in HIV testing, awareness of HIV status, and access to medical treatment among Chicago men who have sex with men (MSM). Young black men, the city’s only subpopulation currently experiencing annual increases in HIV diagnoses, provided the report with the most encouraging numbers.
At some point during their lifetime, almost all MSM in Chicago have been tested for HIV; 57 percent are meeting the CDC guidelines of undergoing at least annual testing. Young black MSM reported the highest rate of annual testing, with 71 percent. Chicago has experienced a decrease across races in the number of persons who are unaware of being HIV-infected: in 2011, only 22 percent were unaware of being HIV-infected, compared to 52 percent in 2008. Two thirds of black MSM were not aware of their infection in 2008; now just one third are unaware, according to Nikhil Prachand, senior epidemiologist at the Chicago Department of Public Health.
Those testing HIV-positive are far more likely to be on medication. HIV-positive black MSM taking HIV medications almost doubled from 2008 to 2011—44 percent in 2008 and 84 percent in 2011. The proportion of Hispanic and white MSM on antiretrovirals also increased. Not all numbers were so encouraging. The 2011 numbers revealed that the percentage of HIV-positive MSM increased slightly since 2008; however, this is likely to continue, as people with HIV continue to live longer and healthier lives. Twenty-one percent of survey respondents tested positive for HIV in 2011, up from 18 percent in 2008.
Racial disparities have continued in the most recent survey. Since 2005, there has been a gap in new diagnoses, particularly between black and white MSM, explained Prachand. In 2011, 35 percent of black MSM survey participants tested HIV-positive, compared to 13 percent of Hispanic and 17 percent of white participants. Community representatives focused on the social determinants of HIV infection, such as incarceration, unemployment, and low educational attainment. The Chicago Area HIV Integrated Services Council will use data from the report to make funding recommendations to be presented to the city for 2014 programs.