Andrew Buchanan email@example.com
CHICAGO - Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) today announced a new, multiyear initiative to slash the number of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Chicago, starting with a task force of medical and community experts that will create a comprehensive action plan to reduce new primary and secondary syphilis cases, the most infectious stages of disease in men and pregnant women.
“The City of Chicago is committed to ensuring all residents have the opportunity to be healthy,” said Mayor Lightfoot. “There is an urgent need to scale up prevention and treatment efforts on STIs. Together with community partners, we intend to meet this challenge.”
The Syphilis Task Force will be a partnership co-led by CDPH and community organizations, which will work together to develop strategies that are scientifically sound, community oriented and focused on populations and geographic areas disproportionately impacted by syphilis. The Task Force will set goals, targets and make recommendations that focus on strengthening existing policies and practices and initiating new approaches to reduce disease transmission through increased testing, treatment and prevention.
The syphilis task force is the first step of the multiyear initiative to curb STIs across the city. Future task forces will be named to create recommendations for reducing chlamydia and gonorrhea infections, primarily among non-Hispanic Black youth and young adults.
“This approach exemplifies the essential role that City government can play in promoting community-driven solutions to public health problems,” said CDPH Acting Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “With a commitment to equity and transparency, we will both strengthen existing policies and pursue innovative approaches to reducing the spread of STIs.”
The Task Force is comprised of 15 experts and leaders of healthcare providers, academic institutions and community-based organizations with successful track records developing community engagement strategies and implementing public health interventions. Members include:
While HIV rates are declining, other STIs are on the rise across the nation. In 2018, Chicago had 30,608 chlamydia cases (the highest on record), 12,679 gonorrhea cases (the highest in a decade) and 877 primary and secondary syphilis cases (the highest since the mid-1990s). The syphilis figure represents an 11% rise over the previous year, with a disproportionate effect on gay and bisexual men. In addition, women saw a 38% increase between 2017 and 2018, which could lead to more babies acquiring congenital syphilis (CS). Without proper treatment, syphilis can lead to neurological damage, blindness, deafness, dementia, stroke and permanent damage to vital organs.
“The time has come for a concerted effort to reduce syphilis in our community,” says Chad Hendry, Director of Sexual & Reproductive Health at Howard Brown Health and member of the Syphilis Task Force. “We are eager to work with the City to foster more effective approaches to preventing and treating syphilis, especially among the residents most at risk.”
This initiative builds on CDPH’s existing efforts. CDPH tracks all new STI infections in Chicago—more than 40,000 cases annually—and provides follow up services to prevent further transmission. The department also makes strategic investments in STI prevention, diagnosis and treatment, including: