HARTFORD — The Connecticut Department of Public Health on Wednesday announced the launch of Getting to Zero, a campaign to get to zero new HIV infections, zero AIDS-related deaths and zero HIV/AIDS-related stigma and discrimination. Wednesday is HIV testing day.
G2Z was 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. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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.
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.
A final G2Z report will be presented to the DPH Commissioner in December, 2018.
“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.”