Chicago nets $8.1M in federal money to fight AIDS/HIV

Total pool of $339M shared by health departments nationwide

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By CHRISTI SODANO

In an effort to curb HIV/AIDS in the Chicago-area, the federal government will increase prevention funding for the city to assist the growing number of people here living with the disease.

Health departments from all 50 states will partake in $339 million from The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency. Chicago's share over the next five years comes to approximately $8.1 million, earmarked to the Chicago Department of Public Health. The department's prevention programs include free HIV testing and condoms to high-risk individuals, as well as awareness education. The federal-funding boost for Chicago is an increase from $7.4 million.

The number of newly-diagnosed HIV and AIDS cases in Chicago has declined steadily since 2000, according to a recent Chicago health department study: Healthy Chicago STI (sexually transmitted infections) /HIV Surveillance Report. The number of people living with HIV in the city, however, is still on the rise. That's due in part to new infections, but primarily because HIV-positive people are living longer, the report shows.

According to the city's most recent surveillance report, nearly 22,000 people are living with HIV or AIDS in Chicago. Another 5,800 people or so are believed to have the virus but are unaware of their condition. Compared to the rest of the state, reported cases in Chicago represents 63 percent of all people living with the virus in Illinois, according to the report.

Salina Cranor, a representative with The Centers for Disease Control, said the agency did not base its funding on newly-diagnosed cases but rather on the number of people living with an HIV diagnosis. Efrat Stein, a representative for the Chicago health department, added, "The CDC's approach to target high-impact areas is aligned with our local HIV service efforts."

These efforts include providing funds to local clinics and care centers that promote prevention initiatives.

"Our goal is to address [high-risk group] needs through early HIV/STI testing," said Jamal Edwards, president and CEO of Chicago-based Howard Brown Health Center, which focuses on the LGBT community. The Health Center recently received some of the CDC funding. Edwards said his organization helps high-risk groups through counseling, psychotherapy and workshops and support groups, as well.

Like the Howard Brown Center, the Test Positive Aware Network in Chicago also receives funding for HIV/AIDS prevention. But in addition to medical treatment, Test Positive works to change public perception about the disease. "Research shows young African-American men who have sex with other men are the highest risk group for HIV transmission," said Bill Farrand, the organization's CEO. "Our response in the programming we do is to find ways to combat stigma by changing the structures and roadblocks to care."

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