Chicago HIV, AIDS diagnoses at lowest points since 1980s, as other STIs rise

tubes with hiv test blood samples in laboratory

The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) announced this week that the number of new HIV and AIDS diagnoses in the city were at their lowest point since the 1980s.

A report from the CDPH found there were only 627 new HIV diagnoses in 2020, the lowest since 1987. The department said represents a 29 percent decrease when compared to 2016 (when there were 886 new diagnoses). Declines in new diagnoses between 2016 and 2020 were seen in all genders, in all age groups, and in Chicago’s Black, Latinx and White populations. In 2020, 269 Chicagoans were diagnosed with AIDS, which is the most advanced stage of HIV infection, when the immune system has been badly damaged by the HIV virus.  This is the fewest new AIDS diagnoses since 1985, with an AIDS case rate of 8.4 per 100,000 population. The report also found an increase of those who do have HIV achieving viral suppression.

The report is the city’s first look at STIs post-pandemic. The CDPH said that the COVID-19 pandemic may affected reporting and possibly underreporting of diagnoses.

The same report also found an increase in other STIs such as syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia, especially in the Black community. Between 2016–2020, reported syphilis cases increased among non-Hispanic Blacks by 56 percent, decreased among non-Hispanic Whites by 22 percent, and decreased among Hispanics by 2 percent.

“I’m proud of the work that CDPH’s Syndemic Infections Bureau did to produce this extensive report,” said CDPH Commissioner Allison Arwady, M.D. “I’m even more proud of the excellent progress that Chicago continues to make in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It’s not just that HIV diagnoses are down, it’s that they are down for Black Chicagoans, White Chicagoans, and Latinx Chicagoans of all ages. But we must remain focused on addressing disparities, knowing that more than half of new HIV diagnoses still occur in Black Chicagoans and that other STIs are on the rise, especially among younger people.”

As in previous years, individuals aged 20-29 years were the most likely age group to be diagnosed with chlamydia, gonorrhea and primary and secondary syphilis. A plurality of the STI diagnoses also continue to be experienced by non-Hispanic Black Chicagoans: 50.6 percent of all reported chlamydia cases, 60.7 percent of gonorrhea cases, and 50 percent of syphilis cases.