City of Chicago and Community Leaders Join U=U Campaign as Part of New Effort to Reduce HIV Transmissions to Zero

The below is a September 28 press release from the Chicago Department of Public Health.

Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) campaign increases awareness of scientific evidence that effective HIV treatment successfully stops the spread of HIV

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today that both the City of Chicago and Chicago’s primary HIV advisory body, the Chicago Area HIV Integrated Services Council (CAHISC), have joined more than 390 organizations from 56 countries in supporting the U=U Campaign. The move is part of Chicago’s latest efforts to reach zero new HIV infections in the next decade. U=U, which stands for Undetectable = Untransmutable, raises awareness worldwide about the effectiveness of HIV treatment and to destigmatize the disease.

“HIV treatment works,” said Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita. “We are proud to join U=U as we continue to fight to get to zero and ensure that every Chicagoan living with HIV receives the treatment they need to keep themselves and their partners healthy.”

U=U, a campaign created by Prevention Access, promotes scientific evidence that shows a person living with HIV who has had an undetectable viral load in their blood for at least 6 months cannot transmit the virus sexually to his/her partners. Previous language and studies suggested that there was small risk but the risk has been found to be negligible, or so statistically insignificant that it is not worth considering. By joining the campaign, Chicago takes a vocal stand to embrace HIV treatment as an effective method for preventing new HIV infections. This means that when a Chicago resident living with HIV is in treatment and reaches viral suppression, that individual is no longer at risk for transmitting the virus sexually to partners.

“Twenty years ago we learned treatment would save lives. Today we know that it also prevents transmission to others,” said Bruce Richman, Executive Director of Undetectable = Untransmittable. “This is a gamechanger that underscores the need for everyone to have access to treatment to stay healthy and stop new transmissions.”

Anti-retroviral treatment (ART) which is used to reduce the viral load of people living with HIV has been recognized as highly effective for more than 20 years. However, people living with HIV continue to live with the stigma that they are infectious and possibly harmful to their partners. U=U encourages ART adherence and helps to raise awareness of the efficacy of treatment as prevention. The campaign also aims to reduce stigmatizing actions among the public as well as clinical and community partners.

The City’s HIV Planning Council, CAHISC, is the first HIV planning council worldwide to join the campaign. CAHISC is responsible for prioritizing HIV services in Chicago and partners with the city to allocate more than $40 million annually for HIV prevention, care, treatment and housing programs. By signing on to U=U, CAHISC sends a clear message that all CDPH-funded programs across the Chicagoland area must follow current scientific evidence and promote this destigmatizing philosophy that greatly impacts the health of people living with HIV and the entire community.

“Chicago is taking a bold stance against HIV and stigma and CAHISC is proud to help lead this charge,” said Peter McLoyd, CAHISC Co-Chair. “As members of the community, we recognize the power of U=U for people living with HIV and we will continue to advocate for them.”

Last week, CPDH announced the Getting to Zero (GTZ) framework, which brought together city and state officers with local community organizations to leverage available resources and expand services to reduce HIV transmission. The a statewide effort includes CDPH, IDPH, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Alexian Brothers Housing and Health Alliance, Center on Halsted, Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus, Howard Brown Health, Illinois Public Health Association, Lake County Health Department, Northwestern University, Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center and University of Chicago. GTZ has two primary outcomes: increasing the utilization of PrEP, the daily pill that reduces the risk of becoming infected with HIV by more than 90 percent, from 20 percent to 40 percent, and increasing adherence to ART among those living with HIV from 50 percent to 70 percent. If successful, HIV in Chicago will reach a point where it can no longer sustain itself, or “functional zero” in the next decade.

For more information on the U=U campaign and to view a full list of partners click here.

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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