We would like to commend the Austin Weekly News for putting a spotlight on the issue of HIV among gay men in Chicago in your recent article. [Advocates battle surging HIV rates in Chicago, Sept. 10]. While we, as a city, undoubtedly face formidable challenges in reducing the burden of the HIV epidemic it is important to mention that our recent report — HIV Risk and Prevention Behaviors Among Men Who Have Sex with Men — highlights the substantial progress that has been made. We feel these hopeful signs deserve a mention.

First, the report highlights that 71 percent of young black gay men in Chicago are being regularly tested for HIV, and almost half are participating in local behavioral intervention programs, both the highest rates among any group of gay men. Second, significantly more gay men in Chicago were aware of their positive HIV status in 2011 than they were in 2008, particularly black men.

And lastly, our report finds that the number of HIV-positive black men in Chicago accessing life-saving HIV medications has doubled since 2008. These achievements have been hard-won through the tireless efforts of many advocates, community organizations, health departments and their numerous partners.

We hope your readers agree that these findings paint a more hopeful picture for ending the epidemic in Chicago.

Nikhil Prachand
Epidemiologist, Chicago
Department of Public Health