History

Snow on the Grande Disc sculpture in front of the University of Chicago Medicine. By Avi Schwab.

HIV at the University of Chicago

Prior to 2000, there was a history at the University of Chicago, and in particular within the biomedical complex, of looking beyond one of the most significant medical challenges of the century.  We were probably one of the only major urban academic health institutions in the United States to do so, and in many ways this legacy has made our current efforts even more pronounced, focused and driven. The University of Chicago is at the forefront of healing complex conditions which makes our current "one campus" approach distinct, and advances the natural and deep interdisciplinary approaches that CCHE embodies. 

One of the benefits of a late start is that much of the entrenched HIV ideologies that focus on individual behaviors and insular biomedical cures have not guided CCHE’s fresh approach to eliminating HIV transmission. Our policies, the ways our infrastructure has developed, and a lack of legacy in programs or people has made CCHE a place where new and interdisciplinarity ideas thrive. We recruit the best minds and utilize advanced methods that are fostered within the community in which the institution resides.

The Biological Sciences Division and in particular the Departments of Medicine, Pediatrics, Obstetrics/Gynecology and Health Studies have made considerable progress towards HIV transmission elimination. These units and the Harris School, the Booth School, the School of Social Services Administration, and the College are reciprocally strengthened by efforts to limit new HIV transmission domestically and internationally.

High quality HIV prevention and treatment clinical services for newly HIV diagnosed and at-risk adolescents and adults are available even for those without insurance through one of several CCHE HIV providers. A very important part of our growth and development has included the establishment of a comprehensive HIV program that has rapidly expanded 10 fold over a ten year period to meet the needs of multiple populations in Chicago. 

The HIV Epidemic in Chicago

The history of HIV/AIDS in Chicago, mirroring other major cities, is in many ways a representative microcosm of the national epidemic. In the early 80s the epidemic was widely considered a disease of (mostly white) gay men and injection drug users. Today, the predominantly white LGBTQ neighborhoods of LakeView and Uptown still have the highest prevalence of HIV in the city where many social services are available. However, the rate of new infection is increasing fastest in young black men who have sex with men and black women. Young black MSM in Chicago are more likely than white MSM to become infected with HIV, with no differences in risk behavior or partner number. 

The University of Chicago’s position on the South Side makes it uniquely situated to test, treat, and prevent new HIV infections in a highly affected population. The South Side communities and majority Black suburbs connected to them to the South represents the largest contiguous Black population in the United States. By using our integrated HIV transmission elimination approaches, we are beginning to make new infections in these communities less frequent.