Half of all men carrying the AIDS virus
who were tested in a Chicago survey were unaware they were infected,
according to a study released Friday by the Chicago
Public Health Department.
Although HIV infection rates have been
tracked by the city for years, this is the first time the Health
Department has conducted HIV tests on men who have sex with men as
part of a survey on HIV infection, city officials said.
In the study, conducted in 2008 by two
Health Department epidemiologists, 524 men were tested and 91 of them
were HIV positive. Half of those who tested positive did not know
they were infected.
Overall, the rate of infection among
the sampled group was 17.4 percent, an indication that an estimated 1
in 5 gay men in Chicago are HIV-Positive. Among all men in Chicago,
the rate is about 1.2 percent, according to the study.
The findings confirm prior information
about the AIDS epidemic in Chicago, and are consistent with rates in
other large cities. Still, the results emphasize the need for more
work to combat HIV transmission in Chicago, said Assistant Health
Commissioner Christopher Brown.
"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," Brown said.
The HIV infection rates among
minorities are higher than whites and higher among older men than
younger, according to the survey results.
Among 18- to 24-year-olds, the
infection rate was 13.6 percent; for those older than 45, it was 22
percent. Among white men, the infection rate was 11.3 percent; among
black men, it was 30.1 percent; and among Hispanic men, it was 12
"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 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.
contributed to this story.
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