LINCOLN PARK — Chicago Public Health officials touted a decadelong decline in new HIV infections in an annual report issued Thursday, but noted that other sexually transmitted infections had risen in the city and throughout the country.
"Over the last decade, new HIV infections have steadily declined in Chicago," Public Health Commissioner Julie Morita said at a news conference in Lincoln Park. She said the 921 new infections reported citywide in 2015 were down only slightly from the 973 the year before.
"There is more work to be done," Morita said, adding that the goal remained to have no new infections and bring "an end to the AIDS era."
"The last five years, we have not seen a significant decline in infections, which leads us to believe that we have to accelerate our work to begin drawing infections down again," added Deputy Commissioner David Kern of the HIV/STI Bureau, which issued the annual "Surveillance Report" on HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
They touted gains in treatment, reporting that 80 percent of those newly diagnosed with HIV in 2015 were treated for it within a month. That, they added, was helping in efforts at suppression of the disease.
"We're also seeing more people living with HIV and leading healthier lives," Kern said, adding that treatments were increasingly effective. "And we're seeing fewer HIV-related deaths since the beginning of the epidemic" in the '80s.
News on other sexually transmitted infections was not as encouraging, however. New cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were up, though new cases of syphilis were level from the year before.
"The trends in Chicago do give us pause," Kern said, while adding that they were consistent with a national increase in the diseases as well.
On HIV, data showed that people in their 20s saw the largest increase in new infections, making up 43.2 percent of all new cases. African-Americans were most at risk, making up 54.1 percent of all new cases.
New HIV cases were concentrated in Grand Boulevard, Uptown, Greater Grand Crossing, Chatham and Edgewater. Highest rates of those living with HIV were reported in Uptown, Edgewater and Rogers Park.
Those is their 20s also made up the age group most at risk for new cases of other sexually transmitted infections. Again, African-Americans were most at risk, making up 48 percent of new chlamydia cases, 55 percent of new gonorrhea infections and 44 percent of syphilis.
Highest chlamydia rates were seen in North Lawndale, Riverdale and West Garfield Park. Highest gonorrhea rates were reported in North Lawndale, West Garfield Park and Englewood. High syphilis rates were seen in Uptown, Edgewater and Washington Park.
The news conference took place in an event at the Alphawood Gallery, 2401 N. Halsted St., where the national touring exhibit "Art AIDS America" opened Thursday, on World AIDS Day. The exhibit, which has been augmented with the work of Chicago artists on the AIDS epidemic, will be on site until April 2.
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