New DPH program aims to reduce HIV to zero

December 17, 2018

The state is looking to reduce the number of new human immunodeficiency virus infections and HIV-related deaths by a significant amount — all the way to zero.

On Monday, the Connecticut Department of Public Health issued a report filled with recommendations for implementing Getting to Zero, a campaign to obliterate HIV infections, death and stigma in the state. The campaign calls for the campaign to be launched statewide and in five major cities: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Stamford and Waterbury.

“I am extremely proud of the work done over the last six months by the G2Z Commission to focus on the population groups and the areas in Connecticut where HIV continues to have a disproportionate impact, specifically the state’s five largest cities and among young men having sex with men, particularly in communities of color, black women and transgender individuals,” said DPH Commissioner Raul Pino in a statement.

According to the new Getting to Zero report, there were 269 HIV newly diagnosed in Connecticut in 2016, the most recent year for which data was provided. Between 2010 and 2015, the five cities targeted by the campaign each had more than 50 cases of HIV diagnosed among residents.

Though new cases of HIV are on the decline in some Connecticut populations, the HIV rate is increasing in several demographic groups.

For instance, in 2016, about 50 percent of HIV cases in Connecticut were among men having sex with men, and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that men of color who have sex with men are especially vulnerable. The CDC reports that one in two black men who have sex with men will contract HIV in his lifetime, as will one in four Latino men having sex with men.

Black women in Connecticut are also especially at risk. The state reports that black women in the state are living with HIV at a rate about 12 times that of white females, and black women were diagnosed with HIV at a rate 20 times that of white women between 2012 and 2016.

The National Center for Transgender Equality Survey reports that transgender individuals are also five times more likely than cisgender individuals to be infected with HIV.

The Getting to Zero report outline six main recommendations for eradicating the virus, including implementing standardized medical care for people living with HIV and encouraging the development HIV testing legislation in accordance with CDC recommendations for routine HIV testing for those 15 to 64.

More information on the campaign is available at the new Getting to Zero web site, www.gettingtozeroct.org.

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