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Report Shows HIV Prevalence Among Men Who Have Sex With Men

Half of Those Surveyed Unaware of Infection

July 24, 2009 - A study released today shows that in Chicago, half of all HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) are unaware of their infection.

Conducted by the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) in 2008, the study also shows racial and ethnic differences in HIV prevalence. Of 524 MSM tested by CDPH in the study, 91 men (17.4%) were HIV positive. Black MSM were 30.1% positive, Hispanic MSM were 12% positive and white MSM were 11.3% positive.

The high rates of infection among MSM stand in stark contrast to the rate of HIV prevalence among all men in Chicago, which is estimated to be 1.2%.

"The findings confirm what we know about the path of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Chicago, and they are consistent with findings in other large urban areas across the country," stated Christopher Brown, CDPH Assistant Commissioner for STI/HIV/AIDS. "These rates are unacceptably high---and clearly, there is a need for continued, substantial efforts to reach people at risk with effective HIV education and testing services."

The study also reports on associated factors, including drug and alcohol use, sexual behaviors, and use of HIV prevention and testing services.

The document was released at a press conference at the West Side headquarters of TaskForce Prevention and Community Services. It was co-authored by CDPH epidemiologists Nikhil Prachand and Britt Skaathun Livak, who thanked those who edited and contributed to the final document.

"This report presents a sobering look at one very troubling aspect of the HIV epidemic and should serve as a call to action for everyone," added Alicia Ozier, Executive Director of TaskForce Prevention and Community Services. "Everyone engaged in the fight against HIV---from grassroots activists to service providers to grant writers and researchers---should use this document as a tool to better understand and better confront HIV in Chicago."

The report will be posted soon at

Chicagoans interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS are encouraged to call 1-800-243-AIDS (1-800-243-2437).

About HIV/AIDS in Chicago

  • As it has elsewhere across the nation and world, HIV/AIDS has taken a tragic toll on Chicago.

  • Since the epidemic began, more than 22,000 Chicagoans have been diagnosed with AIDS. Thousands more are living with HIV infection but have not yet developed AIDS. Of the known AIDS cases in Chicago, more than 12,000 have died.

  • Since 1989, government resources to fight HIV/AIDS in Chicago have increased significantly, rising from just $4 million to about $50 million in 2008.

  • The City, through the Chicago Department of Public Health and other City departments, funds a wide array of community-based prevention, education, counseling, testing, treatment and human services programs designed to confront the epidemic. Those programs are typically designed with substantial grassroots input and serve communities in greatest need. Specific actions by CDPH include:

  • HIV Prevention Plan, 2007-2009 - Under the current HIV Prevention Plan, MSM are the highest-prioritized population for services. Additionally, CDPH funds over 20 community based organizations and coalitions to provide services to MSM across the City. CDPH also works closely with non-traditional partners to better understand and serve MSM living with and at risk for HIV. Direct services, social marketing campaigns and key partnerships with community leaders have further enhanced our ability to access and serve the population.

  • Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus - Since the group's inception, CDPH has provided vital support and co-leadership for the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus. This group was created in 2005 by individuals and organizations committed to eliminating gaps in STD/HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment services for African-American MSM. CDPH will continue to work with the Caucus to expand testing efforts at their quarterly community meetings and via the Caucus Outreach subcommittee, coordinate outreach efforts to reach African-American MSM.

  • Prevention Pilot Projects - CDPH is engaged in several MSM prevention pilot projects, including MSM couples counseling, MSM cultural competency trainings for clinic staff and partner agencies, and an intervention targeting the "House and Ball" party circuit and community.

  • Expanded Testing- As a part of its efforts to increase HIV testing within African-American communities in Chicago, CDPH targets five of the largest LGBT summer events to provide free, on-site HIV tests, syphilis screening and hepatitis vaccination services. Elaborate and efficient "testing villages" attract many MSM who then obtain easy and accessible testing and prevention counseling.

  • Expanded Condom Distribution - CDPH has increased its free condom distribution from three million to 10-12 million condoms annually. 100 additional community sites for condom distribution have been identified. CDPH is in the planning stages to conduct targeted condom distribution in less well-known venues where MSM might congregate (private parties, roving events etc.), thus reaching those at higher risk for infection.

  • Increased Community Presence - Finally, CDPH is considering a number of other initiatives to refine and increase prevention efforts for MSM, including the development and launching of a community educational campaign, and creating a CDPH "Outreach Dispatch" to triage and direct outreach requests to appropriate entities.
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