Illinois: Chicago's HIV Toll Hard to Know
August 3, 2005
Chicago health experts said it is far too early to know if the city's gay community is seeing a decline in HIV infections. San Francisco media recently reported a decrease in HIV infections in its gay community, suggesting that the spread of HIV has slowed to rates recorded four years ago.
Christopher Brown, assistant commissioner with the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) division of STD/HIV/AIDS, said health practitioners report HIV/AIDS cases to CDPH, which categorizes the data by year of diagnosis. He said 2004 data are very preliminary, with information still coming in.
From data already collected, Brown noted, "We are seeing decreases in overall numbers in 2003 and 2004, but basically it's too soon to tell ... if we've got substantial reductions." But as 2004 cases are still being reported, Brown cautioned that the 2004 decreases could be due to a reporting lag and that infection rates "could definitely rise and may not show a decrease at all." He said the department would have a better idea of the actual numbers by late 2005 or early 2006.
Dr. Leigh Roberts of the Howard Brown Health Center said she and her colleagues have not observed the same trend in Chicago as in San Francisco. "Anecdotally, we've seen increased infection rates in youth [ages 14-24] and men over 40," Roberts said, adding that Chicago data from 2002 and 2003 show steady numbers, at best, with roughly 1,100-1,200 HIV cases per year.
Roberts noted that Chicago works "backwards," calculating case numbers based on diagnoses, while San Francisco makes an estimate. The difference in data collection and reporting could account for the differences between the two cities, she suggested.
Windy City Times (Chicago)
08.03.05; Amy Wooten