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Inside Story
Kicking stigma to the curb through AIDS Run & Walk Chicago PDF Print
Friday, July 11, 2014

How do you overcome stigma — the dark shadow over an idea or thing that makes people jump to drastic conclusions? For Brad Setter, it’s all about awareness — bringing the thing that’s so stigmatized into the public light to get rid of the shadow.

Setter portraitSetter, a 24-year-old student at College of DuPage, knows a thing or two about stigma. He served in the US Marine Corps from 2007-2011, and toward the end of his service, he came out to a friend in the Marines, who told another person, who told another person, and — you can see where this is going. The stigma around being gay in the military broke Setter’s relationships with his fellow Marines.

“All of a sudden, these guys I was serving next to were turning against me, bullying me. I couldn’t believe it.”

But after he was discharged from the marines in 2011 and moved to Phoenix, he got his confidence back through working at a bar, which raised money for LGBT causes. It was a breath of fresh air for Setter, to see one community build its members up after his painful experience in the marines, who tore him down.

“I never knew that a business could be so active in giving back to the community. It really taught me a lot,” said Setter.

While in Phoenix, Setter dated two men who were HIV-positive. These seriodiscordant relationships (where one partner is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative) taught him about the way people living with HIV have to battle the stigma around the disease in public and within themselves.

“I was hanging out with the first guy I dated who I didn’t know what HIV-positive at the time, and all of a sudden he just started crying. I didn’t know what to do, so I just held him.” He later told Setter the news about his HIV status; the two of them talked through it, and Setter went to a local health clinic to learn more about HIV.

Setter email blast“I see the toll it takes on their lives. But I just feel you need to realize people are people first, and HIV/AIDS is something outside of that.”

Setter has participated in HIV/AIDS fitness events in both Phoenix and Chicago; this year will mark the second time he has participated in AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. He’s running for Youth Outlook, a nonprofit organization in the Chicago suburbs.

“It’s so important to end the stigma around HIV/AIDS out in the suburbs. I’m looking forward to bringing some visibility to the cause.”

AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will take place on Sept. 14 at Arvey Field in Grant Park. To register or donate, go to

What can internet search engines reveal about STD trends and risk? PDF Print
Tuesday, July 01, 2014

In an invited talk at the 2014 STD Prevention Conference, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s Director of Research, Evaluation and Data Services, Amy Johnson, along with UIC Associate Professor Supriya Mehta, discussed the application of search engine data to sexually transmitted disease (STD) surveillance. Highlighting their current study published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases in January 2014, they discussed the challenges and feasibility of this novel approach.

Internet-based surveillance of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) has the potential to increase the timeliness of detection and response to trends in infection as well as enhance sensitivity and predictive capacity of the surveillance system.

In this study, Google Trends was used to examine the relationship between STI-related search trends and CDC-reported STI rates by U.S. state. Google Trends analyzes Internet searches to tally how many searches are completed for the terms entered. Data from Google Trends has been used to accurately predict regional outbreaks of influenza 7 to 10 days before conventional surveillance. It has also been applied to other infectious diseases such as West Nile Virus, rotavirus, and more recently, HIV.

In the current study, the frequency of STI search terms was greatest in states where STI rates are the highest. The search term “gonorrhea” was positively associated with STI rates in 2011; however, there was no association for “chlamydia” as a search term. The lack of association between “chlamydia” and state rate of disease may be due to the short period of data analyzed; because screening for chlamydia is much more common relative to gonorrhea, if most chlamydia cases are detected asymptomatically, this may explain the lack of correlation between search terms.

The current study has limitations. For starters, it cannot be concluded that only STI-infected individuals or those at risk are generating all STI-related search terms. There is uncertainty about the cause of trends, and there is no control for differential access to the internet by region.

Next steps include partnering with Google to enhance the user interface and develop disease specific tools, determining the potential for integrating this new method into surveillance settings and determining search engine user characteristics.

It’s a brave new world of health-related big data, and learning to leverage this data and integrate it into public health systems is an innovative and important task.

Better red (or green or yellow or grape-flavored) than dead PDF Print
Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Kristina Rasmussen, Executive Vice President of the Illinois Policy Institute, took Illinois to task by calling out its $1 million budget for condoms and lubricant.

Every new HIV case costs an estimated $390,000 in lifetime medical costs, much of which is paid for by the state. HIV cases are rising fastest among young gay and bisexual men (and particularly young African Americans and Latinos). Aren’t their lives worth $1 million?

Furthermore, Cook County currently boasts the highest number of gonorrhea cases of any county in the nation, and stands at number two for chlamydia and syphilis cases. This is but a fraction of the total number of sexually transmitted infection cases in the U.S. — 19 million every year — which accounts for an estimated $17 billion in medical costs.

Rasmussen also implies that condom availability programs aren’t effective or worth the state’s investment. In fact, the evidence is extremely strong that condom availability programs have “significant intervention effects… for the following outcomes: condom use, condom acquisition/condom carrying, delayed sexual initiation among youth, and reduced incident STIs.”

Compared with spending billions for medical care, isn’t it more cost-effective to provide the tools that can bring improve outcomes and reduce and medical costs — and save lives? These are the very things the state is providing, like male and female condoms in different colors and sizes, along with lube in flavors other than “plain.” And doesn’t it make sense to provide HIV prevention tools that are appealing and — gasp — fun?



Taste the Rainbow Graphic - No Clouds

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About Inside Story

Do you ever feel there are critical advances in HIV/AIDS prevention that aren't being properly covered in the mainstream media? Or that there are complex HIV/AIDS-related healthcare and funding issues not being clearly explained? Or that there are powerful HIV/AIDS stories here in Chicago just waiting for someone to tell them?
We feel that way, too!

At the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), we’re committed to changing the story of HIV/AIDS. Inside Story aims to take you inside that story, to give you an intimate look at how AFC, and other Chicago and national organizations, are fighting HIV/AIDS through medical, housing and support services; cutting-edge research into prevention and treatment methods; and advocacy for stronger HIV-AIDS public policy from legislators.

If you have questions or blog ideas, please contact Brian Solem, Communications Manager and Staff Writer, at


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