Illinois: Health Officials Tackle AIDS With Postings on Facebook, Flyers at Gay Bars
The Department of Public Health and the Illinois Public Health Association have partnered to prevent HIV through the Care Connect program, which will offer increased testing and strategies designed to reach the populations most vulnerable to HIV. Illinois reported 2,390 new HIV diagnoses in the past year.
Additionally, the Madison County AIDS Program (MadCAP) offered free walk-in HIV testing from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 2016 Madison Avenue, Granite City. Prevention Coordinator Andrea Stafford noted that walk-in testing was convenient and allowed people to have testing when they had "worked up the courage." MadCAP outreach promoted healthy relationships, condom use, and talking to partners about HIV. Outreach outlets included social media, postings on Craigslist, and flyers delivered to nightclubs and gay bars. MadCAP services also included surveillance, linkage to care, prevention education, and partner services.
St. Clair County Health Department HIV Program Manager Tina Markovich noted that the health department encouraged people who did not know their status to have an HIV test and publicized the location of testing services. The department also worked to ensure that HIV-infected people were aware of the medical care, risk-reduction education, and other services available through state-funded Ryan White HIV Care Services.
The statewide program Illinois HIV Care Connect targeted younger residents with a social media campaign and reached out to Latinos with a Spanish-language Web site. The English-language Care Connect Web site, launched in 2009, received approximately 800 site visits monthly. Additional information was available from www.hivcareconnect.com/.
Illinois Public Health Association Spokesperson Jeffery Erdman stated that lack of healthcare coverage prevented some residents from having HIV testing. Erdman estimated that approximately 25 percent of HIV-infected persons were unaware of their status and that people who did not know they had the virus were responsible for causing 50 to 60 percent of new HIV infections.