CDPH 2021 data shows small uptick in new HIV diagnoses, historic drop in new AIDS diagnoses

December 1, 2022

CDPH also releases trailer of HIV ‘Journey Toward Zero’ documentary for World AIDS Day

CDPH Public Information

CHICAGO – In 2021, the second year Chicago faced COVID-19, new HIV cases in Chicago residents rose by just under 2 percent, while new AIDS diagnoses dropped to their lowest level since 1985, the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced today. Additionally, there was a double-digit percentage decrease in primary and secondary syphilis cases in 2021, according to CDPH.

The 1.9 percent increase over 2020 in new HIV diagnoses bucked a decades-long trend of decreasing numbers of new HIV diagnoses in Chicago. Chicago reported 639 new HIV cases in 2021 – up from 627 in 2020. However, the 2021 report represents the second-lowest number of new HIV diagnoses reported locally since the late 1980s. The minimal increase in diagnoses between 2020 and 2021 is not unexpected and likely reflects disruptions in health care services and reporting during the first year of the COVID pandemic, rather than a major change in disease patterns. Consequently, CDPH continues to urge caution when comparing data from 2020 and 2021 to other years.

The 246 new diagnoses of AIDS among Chicagoans in 2021 are the fewest since 1985. (HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. If untreated, HIV weakens a person's immune system by destroying their T-cells until they're unable to fight off even minor illnesses. AIDS is the final and most serious stage of an HIV infection.)

Despite the decades of decline, the rate of reduction has not been equitable for all communities. As in previous years, Black Chicagoans continued to represent a majority of new HIV diagnoses, though the percentage of total cases in Black residents fell by eight percent from 55 percent in 2020 to 47 percent in 2021. Of the 246 new AIDS diagnoses reported to CDPH in 2021, 57 percent were among Black Chicagoans (same as in 2020). Therefore, all CDPH-funded programs prioritize services for Black and Latino gay, bisexual, and other same gender-loving men; Black cisgender, heterosexual women; and Black and Latina transgender women. Approximately 70 percent of clients served through CDPH-funded programs are Black and Latinx.

Among other sexually transmitted infections (STI)s, the number of chlamydia cases in Chicago increased approximately 9 percent from 2020 to 2021; the number of gonorrhea cases increased by about 1 percent, and the number of primary and secondary (P&S) syphilis cases decreased by approximately 14 percent. However, among women, the number of P&S syphilis cases increased by almost 20 percent (137 to 164) between 2020 and 2021.

These data are reported in CDPH’s 2021 HIV & STI Data Brief – the second such survey of HIV and STI diagnoses in Chicago since COVID. The report is being released on Thursday, World AIDS Day, which is a global day of solidarity with those affected by HIV and a time to remember those lost, and who remain, standing together in the fight against HIV.

“It’s been over four decades since the first known cases of HIV were reported and the progress has been remarkable. We’re at a place now where ‘Getting to Zero’ new HIV cases is a reachable goal within our lifetimes. But we must get there together,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “That’s why we continue to prioritize our investments in communities hardest hit by HIV, with the majority of services provided to Black and Latinx residents on the City’s South and West Sides.”

In honor of World AIDS Day, CDPH is also releasing a trailer for an upcoming documentary film titled, HIV and the Journey Toward Zero. Produced by CDPH and Tessa Films, HIV and the Journey Toward Zero brings together a diverse group of Chicagoans affected by HIV to talk about what it will mean to end the epidemic. In addition to understanding collective experience through the human beauty of survivors’ stories, the documentary provides updates on strategies, the latest developments in HIV, and perspective on the latest tools for preventing and treating HIV. The trailer will be shared on CDPH social media platforms, as well as the Department’s YouTube channel. The full documentary will be released on Feb. 7, 2023 on National Black AIDS Awareness Day.

Additional Resources and Links:

CDPH HIV & STI Resources. Includes information on CDPH Specialty Clinics, where Chicagoans can get HIV and STI services including testing, treatment, and information on prevention, PrEP.

‘HIV and the Journey Toward Zero’ trailer. Produced by CDPH. Full documentary coming in February, 2023.

Syphilis information from the Centers for Disease Control.


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