Tuesday, May 26, 2009

PRESS RELEASE: CDPH Survey Reveals Significant Racial Disparities in Rates of HIV Infections Among Men Who Sex With Men in Chicago


At the May Board of Health meeting (held May 20, 2009), the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) released data which, available for the first time, describes community estimates of HIV infection rates and levels of unrecognized infection among men who have sex with men (MSM) in Chicago. The presentation, entitled “HIV Prevalence, Unrecognized Infection, and HIV Testing among MSM in Chicago, 2008”, highlights significant racial disparities in levels of HIV infection among MSM. Between August and December of 2008, CDPH’s Chicago HIV Behavioral Surveillance System (Project CHAT) randomly sampled 570 MSM at 57 venues throughout Chicago where MSM congregate. Participants consented to a 30-minute survey and an HIV test.

The report found the overall proportion of MSM that tested positive for HIV infection was 17.4%.

HIV prevalence was 30.1% among African-American MSM,
12.0% among Hispanic MSM,

and 11.3% among White MSM surveyed.

The racial disparity appears significantly more pronounced among MSM under 35 years of age. Young African-American MSM were over 7 times more likely to be infected than young White MSM (30.0% vs. 4.2%). “These findings mirror national data from other large cities that show disproportionate rates of HIV infection among African-American MSM, particularly among younger groups, compared to other MSM”, said Nikhil Prachand, senior CDPH epidemiologist and a principal investigator of Project CHAT.

Of those who tested HIV-positive, over 50% were unaware of their HIV infection at the time of the survey. Two-thirds of African-Americans (67%) were unaware of their HIV infection at the time of the survey. This compares to half of all Hispanic MSM and less than a quarter of White MSM (23%).

Among all MSM unaware of their HIV infection, 50% reported not having an HIV test in the past year. Many reported their main reason for not being tested recently because of ‘a fear of testing positive’. The data also suggest that MSM may be unaware of their status because their infections may have been very recently acquired.

CDPH funds fifteen HIV Prevention agencies and over twenty programs throughout the city to target MSM through group and individual level interventions. CDPH also works collaboratively with the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, whose mission is to stop the spread of HIV infection and promote the well-being of African American MSM. This partnership has resulted in new community leadership, numerous educational events and several large scale HIV testing efforts over the past few years.

Along with our community partners, CDPH has expanded HIV testing, condom distribution efforts and increased the usage of evidenced-based interventions (e.g. D-UP, Many Men, Many Voices and Community Promise). Additionally, CDPH coordinates promising new efforts such couples counseling, research projects, social marketing, and cultural competency trainings. We also anticipate engaging in biomedical interventions to prevent transmissions.

Project CHAT is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and is part of a national 21-city surveillance system. This system, which was implemented in 2004, aims to collect behavioral data on risk behaviors and HIV prevention utilization for at-risk groups. Data is collected in three-year cycles with annually alternating populations including MSM, heterosexuals, and injection drug users. The data released Wednesday reflects findings from the second cycle of the MSM survey conducted in 2008.

CDPH Commissioner Terry Mason stated, “It is vital for us to continue promoting testing and education for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections among all Chicagoans and increase prevention efforts with populations that are disproportionately impacted.”

Assistant Commissioner for the STD/HIV Division Christopher Brown, stated, “These baseline data will be used to increase HIV awareness among all MSM and, by working with our community-based partners, to strengthen and expand our prevention efforts.”

For more information about this press release or the upcoming community educational session, please contact Nikhil Prachand at 312-745-3204 or Mini Arellano at 312-745-0384.

[NOTE - Stay connected to LifeLube for ongoing discussion and analysis around the CHAT data, including new information about sexual risk behaviors, substance use behaviors and adverse childhood experiences.]

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