By Will Jones originally published on 12/01/22 at ABC7.com
On World AIDS Day, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center organized a march in Humboldt Park to remember those who have died from HIV- related complications. “I think that’s the big thing reflection and remembrance,” said Anthony Marquez, the associate administrator for the public health initiative at PRCC. World AIDS Day became the first global health day when it began in 1988. Each year on December 1, people from around the world unite in the fight against HIV.
Last year, new HIV cases among Chicago residents rose by just under 2%, while new AIDS diagnoses dropped to their lowest level since 1985, according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Planned Parenthood of Illinois is on the frontlines of the fight against HIV. PPIL offers testing, education and case management. “Every day for us is World AIDS Day. Every day for us, for every patient and for every individual, we try to make sure that we provide the care that everyone needs,” said Brenda Wolfe, the senior director of clinical initatives and education at PPIL. While there have been great strides in medically preventing new infections and treating the virus, there’s still a ways to go culturally. “Just like 40 years ago, fear and stigma are the main factors that were driving this epidemic and those continue to cause major issues and obstacles,” said Dr. Anu Hazra, with Howard Brown Health.
In Chicago, Black people are disproportionately impacted by HIV and AIDS, according to CDPH. “It’s important to realize that we can have the best HIV treatment in the world, but it is meaningless if it’s not able to reach the communities that need it the most,” Dr. Hazra said.
For decades, the Puerto Rican Cultural Center has been focused on tackling the HIV epidemic on the West Side. “When we think of HIV, especially in the LGBTQ community we mainly of think of Boystown, we have to think outside of that,” Marquez said.