Getting To Zero: Ending the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030!
On Tuesday, May 14, 2019, Governor JB Pritzker, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH), and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) introduced the Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) five-year comprehensive plan that details actions to end the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030. As part of the Getting to Zero Illinois collaboration, the plan includes goals and strategies that will reduce new HIV transmissions, support the health of people living with HIV and AIDS, and help Illinois get to “functional zero,” a point where the HIV epidemic can no longer sustain itself.
Getting to Zero Illinois is a statewide public-private partnership of 50 government, community, and health care organizations that was launched in 2017. It has two primary objectives. The first objective is to increase the number of people living with HIV who are virally suppressed (when the virus cannot be transmitted sexually, a concept known as undetectable = untransmittable, or U=U). The second objective is to increase the use of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) among people who are vulnerable to HIV. PrEP is a daily pill and strategy that is nearly 100% effective at preventing HIV transmissions.
The plan was released after almost two years of planning and preparation, which included town hall meetings, surveys, focus groups, draft recommendations, and feedback from communities all over Illinois. The plan focuses on major shifts in six areas:
- Build HIV health care and public health workforce that uses new approaches and adapts to the evolving needs of people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
- Increase access to health care services that support the use of PrEP for HIV treatment.
- Improve health equity by using data and allocating resources to the communities that face the greatest disparities.
- Increase efficiency through governmental coordination.
- Provide services and care for linked, co-occurring conditions, including mental health and substance-use treatment, screening and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and vaccination against diseases such as viral hepatitis and meningitis.
- Measure progress through surveillance and other data at state, city and community levels.
In 2017, an estimated 39,842 people were living with HIV in Illinois, 23,835 of whom lived in the City of Chicago. There were 1,375 new HIV diagnoses in Illinois in 2017, an almost 35% decrease from 2006 to 2017. In Chicago, there were 752 new HIV diagnoses in 2017, the fewest since 1990. However, despite significant progress in reducing the number of new HIV diagnoses, specific communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV, especially Black and Latino/Latinx gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men; transgender women of color; and Black women.
In February 2019, Governor Pritzker signed an Executive Order that included funding for increased HIV testing, PrEP, the African-American HIV/AIDS Response Act, and other public health initiatives. In addition, the state committed to more closely monitor viral load metrics to ensure that more people in Illinois are achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load.
Additionally, IDPH is providing almost $26 million to 62 agencies across Illinois to create and support sustainable HIV prevention and care programs that align with the Getting to Zero Illinois plan. Agencies will promote surveillance, perinatal HIV prevention, same-day HIV and hepatitis C testing, syringe services, linkage to HIV treatment, PrEP, and other HIV prevention tools. PrEP4Illinois will continue to provide PrEP education and prescriptions, regardless of ability to pay.
You can read the plan at https://gtzillinois.hiv/the-plan/. For more information about PrEP visit PrEP4Love.com. For more information about HIV testing visit www.PrEP4Illinois.com.