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Illinois HIV Care Connect: Reaching Out to Changing HIV-Positive Population

February 25, 2014

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Improved prognoses, but many still at-risk for infection

Illinois HIV Care Connect is taking major strides to reach out to a changing HIV-positive population benefiting from improved prognoses due to advances in treatment and access to care. The AIDS Foundation of Chicago is one of seven lead agencies coordinating the services provided through the program, which is funded by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) and federal grants.

“Many people with HIV are on the go, living full, busy lives in good health,” said Tom Hughes, executive director of the Illinois Public Health Association (IPHA), which administers Illinois HIV Care Connect. “There’s been quite a change since the epidemic began.”

Their good health, however, is dependent on receiving lifelong treatment; otherwise, HIV may lead to serious complications or AIDS. In addition, preventing HIV infection remains a challenge, especially among those who engage in risky behaviors such as unprotected sex or needle sharing and by those who are infected but do not know it. About 25 percent of HIV-positive individuals – about 9,000 of the 36,000 HIV-positive people in Illinois – do not know they are HIV-positive, according to state health experts.

The 20-34 age group has the highest number of HIV diagnoses in the United States, and Hispanics account for about 20 percent of the nation’s new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To more effectively reach these demographics, Illinois HIV Care Connect recently launched a Spanish-language Web site, mobile Web sites in English and Spanish, and social media pages on Twitter, Facebook and Google+. Social media is especially popular among young people, who also prefer to access the Internet via mobile devices.

Communicating through multiple channels has helped Illinois HIV Care Connect to create enhanced awareness of the medical case management, health care, and support services it provides to people living with HIV. New visitors to www.hivcareconnect.com increased by 38 percent during 2013. Visitors to the Web site can find information about the services the program provides, as well as information about the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), Continuation of Health Insurance Coverage (CHIC) Program and other services.

You can follow, like or join Illinois HIV Care Connect at the following social media pages:

“This effort is all about extending HIV prevention and treatment across Illinois,” said Hughes. “By preventing HIV and helping those living with HIV find early and ongoing treatment, we can improve health outcomes and reduce medical costs.”

Categorized under Inside Story.

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