World AIDS Day: Chicago increases funding for HIV care and prevention amid pandemic

Tuesday was World AIDS Day, and the theme this year was about ending the epidemic.

While the number of new HIV cases in Chicago is dropping, AIDS has not gone away -- and COVID is complicating things.

In the more than 30 years since the first World AIDS Day, there has been tremendous progress. In Chicago, health officials say there were 652 new HIV diagnosis in 2019 -- that is the lowest number since 1988.

At the Erie Humboldt Park Health Center, the medical director applauds current treatments.

“We know that if patients are taking their medication every day and they're virally suppressed, they cannot transmit HIV to their partner. So we are now looking at treatment as prevention as well. So we are not only treating the patient, we're also preventing transmission to their partners,” said Jackie McSparron.

But McSparron says there are still disparities, with more declines in HIV rates among White men than Black and Latinx men.

Another worry is the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the AIDS epidemic. The World Health Organization just put out a call for global solidarity to maintain essential HIV services during the coronavirus outbreak.

And as a COVID vaccine nears, we still must wait for a cure for HIV.

“HIV is unlike any virus we've ever come up against, it's just taking a long time and the studies go on and I hope that someday there will be a cure, but right now we just need to focus on managing and preventing,” McSparron said.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot says Chicago has increased funding for HIV care and prevention during the pandemic, and says the declining numbers of infections show the city is making progress toward ending the AIDS epidemic in the next ten years.