For 30 years, World AIDS Day has been raising awareness about the AIDS pandemic every Dec. 1. This year, there are reasons to celebrate.
New cases of HIV in Chicago are at record lows, with a 15-percent decrease in residents newly diagnosed with HIV in 2017 compared with 2016, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health.
But it’s not all good news. More than 1.1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV – and one in seven don’t even realize they have it. And if you are a black man having sex with men, your chances of contracting HIV is one in two, according to multiple reports.
“Sigma is still an issue,” says CDPH Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita. “You don’t need to be embarrassed.”
“There were 752 new HIV diagnoses in 2017 in Chicago,” she said. “That’s down from 888 in 2016 because of the existence of antiviral therapy. People are able to live longer.”
In Illinois, there were 28-percent fewer cases of HIV over the last decade. That decline may be attributed to a once-daily preventative mediation called Truvada, or PrEP – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis.
“Prep is a daily HIV medication that when taken consistently and correctly is 100 percent effective at preventing new cases of HIV,” says John Peller, president and CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
There’s more work to be done because there is no cure for HIV/AIDS. But health experts hope to bring the yearly number of new HIV diagnoses to “functional zero” with a Getting To Zero education campaign.
“People who take ART [antiretroviral therapy] daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The AIDS Foundation, Chicago Department of Public Health, the CDC and other organizations have also joined together to get the message out that an undetectable viral load won’t spread the disease under the banner, Undetectable = Untransmittable.
Morita and Peller join us to discuss these efforts--and what functional zero really means.