On National HIV Testing Day Connecticut Launches Getting to Zero Campaign
Goal is zero new HIV infections, AIDS deaths, elimination of HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discriminationThe Connecticut Department of Public Health (DPH) today announced the launch of Getting to Zero (G2Z), a campaign to get to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. G2Z will be launched in the five cities with the highest number of people living with HIV: Bridgeport, Hartford, New Haven, Waterbury and Stamford.
“While great strides have been made to curb HIV infections and improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, HIV continues to have a grossly disproportionate impact on young men having sex with men, particularly in communities of color, Black women and transgender individuals,” said DPH Commissioner Dr. Raul Pino at a State Capitol press conference launching the G2Z campaign. “Getting to Zero will focus more intently on these populations through the reframing of current thinking on HIV and retooling of strategies to curb HIV, with the goal being the elimination of new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and elimination of the stigma and discrimination suffered by people living with HIV/AIDS.”
According to DPH, in Connecticut in 2016, about 50 percent of HIV cases were among men having sex with men (MSM). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the lifetime risk of contracting HIV is one out of every two Black MSM and one out of every four Latino MSM.
In Connecticut, Black females are living with HIV at a rate approximately 12 times that of white females with one out of every 48 Black women at risk for contracting HIV over their lifetime. Black females were diagnosed with HIV at a rate 20 times that of white females between 2012 and 2016. According to the 2015 National Center for Transgender Equality Survey, transgender individuals are five times more likely than cisgender individuals to be infected with HIV. 3.4% of transwomen are HIV positive, compared to .3% of the general U.S. population, and 19% of black transgender women are HIV positive.
A 23-member commission appointed by Commissioner Pino, comprised of advocates from the at-risk populations in each city, AIDS service organization representatives, local health advocates, individuals living with HIV, and researchers from New Haven and Hartford, is currently collaborating with the health directors of the state’s five major cities to develop City Teams that will plan and implement community listening sessions over the summer in each of the cities with each affected population. The goal of these sessions will be to learn from community members what barriers exist that prevent or inhibit the effective delivery of HIV services to the impacted populations. The sessions will also provide Commission members with an opportunity to educate participants on HIV in their city and best practices for preventing and treating HIV.
The commission will then develop specific recommendations for Getting to Zero in each city. The recommendations will be based on input gathered at the listening sessions, along with data, assessments and plans that have been produced by the state’s HIV planning groups and DPH. A final G2Z report will be presented to the DPH Commissioner in December, 2018.
“In Bridgeport the Getting to Zero campaign means a continued focus with a revitalized attention to sustaining and expanding the successful programs that our Department of Public Health provides to support our residents that are afflicted with HIV/AIDS,” Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim said. “This campaign will also be instrumental in our renewed commitment to prevention in order to end the devastating impact of this disease and get our residents in the city and throughout Connecticut ‘to zero.’”
“I’m proud that Connecticut is making a concerted effort to get to zero new HIV infections, zero HIV-related deaths, and to eliminate HIV-related stigma and discrimination,” said Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin. “Today people with HIV and AIDS can live long, healthy lives, and in Hartford, we work with hundreds of residents every year who are living with HIV/AIDS, connecting them to the care they need. We’re committed to getting to zero new infections by working with our community partners and with the Department of Public Health to expand access to prevention and treatment services.”
“The City of Waterbury has a long track record in addressing the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The City’s participation in the Getting to Zero campaign through our Department of Public Health, our HIV/AIDS Prevention program, and our Medical Case Management program is an important demonstration of that longstanding commitment. The Getting to Zero campaign is an opportunity to remobilize our efforts as a City and all across Connecticut to finally end this epidemic,” said Waterbury Mayor Neil O’Leary.