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An HIV collaborative representative distributes an OraQuick test, a test that provides results 20 minutes after swabbing your mouth.

Chicago group launches campaign to promote HIV testing, decrease HIV rates among minorities

by Abby Theodros
June 05, 2013

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"As a woman of color, I want point out that well over half of new diagnoses are among African-Americans," said Sen. Collins (D-Chicago).

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The OraQuick test for HIV used at the Thompson Center Wednesday.

hiv chart

Abby Theodros/MEDILL

Chicago HIV diagnosis percentage breakdown by race.

Sheree White, a single mother on the South Side of Chicago, used her lunch break to get tested for HIV this afternoon.

“I haven’t gotten tested this year and I normally have by this time…it’s free and down the street from my work, so it works out,” she said. 

White wasn’t alone. In fact, several hundred people got tested for HIV at the Thompson Center Wednesday this afternoon, where the Chicago National HIV Testing Collaborative offered free and confidential testing.

“Today’s event is designed to facilitate greater access to free and confidential testing and I encourage everyone to utilize the resources available to get tested,” Dr. Lamar Hasbrouck, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, said in a statement.

OraQuick HIV, the test used to determine HIV status, provides results 20 minutes after swabbing your mouth.

“It’s a lot less invasive. It requires less interaction with your health care provider. This way we can reduce the over 6,000 people in Chicago unaware of their status,” said Anthony Galloway, chairperson of the Chicagoland National HIV Testing Collaborative.

Illinois ranks seventh nationwide in diagnosing HIV infections and fifth in the estimated number of AIDS cases, according to the Illinois Department of Public Health.

“It affects all of us—rich and poor, gay and straight, Black and white … HIV/AIDS does not discriminate,” said Illinois Sen. Jacqui Collins (D-Chicago).

Although HIV/AIDS transcends race and sexuality, government statistics indicate that African-Americans are disproportionately affected.

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, African Americans represent 36 percent of Chicago’s population, yet they account for 55 percent of recently diagnosed HIV infections.

Similarly, black women account for 68.5 percent of new diagnoses since 2005.

“Stigma impedes public health in minority communities. We have a higher community viral load, which means the amount of people living with the virus within communities of color is higher than other non-marginalized communities” said Sanford E. Gaylord, HIV regional resource coordinator for the U.S. Public Health Service in Chicago.

A driving factor of the initiative is that knowing your status puts you in greater control.

“We want to identify the positives because the people that don’t know their status are the ones infecting people with HIV,” said Galloway.