Chicago on the Fast Track

Chicago Boasts Historic Decline in New HIV Diagnoses as the City Joins the United Nation’s Fast-Track Cities 90-90-90 Initiative

Marking fifteen years of steady yearly decline in the number of new HIV infections, the City of Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced on December 1, 2017, World AIDS Day, that only 839 Chicagoans were newly diagnosed with HIV in 2016, down from 1,850 new diagnoses in 2001. The CDPH’s 2017 HIV/STI Surveillance Report also shows that eighty percent of those newly diagnosed with HIV are linked to medical care within one month of diagnosis; this linked-to-care ratio is higher than national rates and positions Chicago to meet the National HIV/AIDS Strategy goal of eighty-five percent by 2020. “These record low numbers push us one step closer toward our goal of building an HIV-free generation in Chicago,” said Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

After launching Chicago’s “Getting to Zero” campaign to eliminate new HIV infections earlier this year, on World AIDS Day Mayor Emanuel also signed on to the Fast-Track Cities initiative, joining other global cities including Paris, Buenos Aires, Mexico City, Mumbai, Bangkok, New York City and San Francisco, among many others. The Fast-Track Cities initiative, which empowers mayors and other key city officials to accelerate their city’s local AIDS responses, is supported by the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care (IAPAC), the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN-Habitat), and the City of Paris to achieve the United Nations’ 90-90-90 goals by 2020.

Since its inception in 2014 with the Paris Declaration—Fast-Track Cities: Ending the AIDS Epidemic—more than 200 cities worldwide have committed to achieving the 90-90-90 targets by 2020. “90-90-90” refers to the goals of 90 percent of people living with HIV (PLHIV) knowing their HIV status; getting 90 percent of those PLHIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART); 90 percent of those PLHIV on ART achieving suppression of the virus; and zero stigma and discrimination. Noting their success so far, representatives from Amsterdam, Nairobi, Paris, San Francisco and São Paulo gathered during a Fast-Track Cities Symposium at the 2017 International AIDS Conference on HIV Science in Paris. They reported that Amsterdam is among the first cities to have reached the 90-90-90 targets: Baseline 90-90-90 data published results of 79-57-79 for Bangkok, 77-96-86 for Nairobi, 87-69-91 for New Orleans, 87-65-91 for São Paulo, 93-79-91 for San Francisco and 94-90-94 for Amsterdam. “In Fast-Track Cities around the world we are witnessing data-driven acceleration of municipal AIDS strategies in partnership with local stakeholders, notably affected communities,” said Jose M. Zuniga, President/CEO of IAPAC and UNAIDS Special Advisor on Fast-Track Cities.

The City of Chicago has also adopted the “Undetectable=Untransmittable” campaign’s finding that people living with HIV whose viral load is successfully suppressed (“undetectable”) on effective treatment do not sexually transmit HIV. “Getting to functional zero [new infections] is achievable within our lifetime,” said CDPH Commissioner Julie Morita, MD. However, she cautioned, African-American men between twenty and twenty-nine years of age continue to face disproportionately high rates of infection. “This report shows that even though we are making progress across the city, younger African American gay and bisexual men are still more likely to be diagnosed with HIV. That is why we are working to ensure that we’re identifying and reaching vulnerable populations; so that all communities have access to health care and medications that prevent and treat HIV.”

—Reporting by Hank Trout

Hank Trout, Editor at Large, edited Drummer, Malebox, and Folsom magazines in the early 1980s. A long-term survivor of HIV/AIDS (diagnosed in 1989), he is a thirty-seven-year resident of San Francisco, where he lives with his fiancé Rick. Follow him on Twitter @HankTroutWriter.