CARBONDALE — The Jackson County Health Department wants to hear from the residents it serves.
From 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, at the Carbondale Civic Center, representatives from the health department along with the Illinois Department of Public Health will talk about its hopes to reduce the number of HIV infections in Illinois to zero in 10 years.
The event has been dubbed the "Getting to Zero" Illinois HIV Town Hall. Over the course of the past year, IDPH has been working to develop the "Getting to Zero" framework to guide Illinois toward having zero new HIV infections, zero people living with HIV who are not receiving treatment and increasing the availability of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, or PrEP, services.
Paula Clark, director of HIV services with the Jackson County Health Department, said the odds of doing just that increase with medications like PrEP and viral suppression practices.
PrEP, is a once-a-day pill that, when used consistently, can prevent at-risk people from getting infected with HIV. Viral suppression makes it to where those infected with HIV have a lower amount of the virus in the body.
Clark said nationwide there is about a 35 to 40 percent suppression rate of those infected with HIV. She said not every patient is adherent with their medication, some are seeing doctors regularly and others just aren’t seeking help with the virus at all.
She said in the lower 19 counties, about 93 percent of the clients seeking treatment are suppressed. However, there are tens of thousands of other individuals with the infection who are not seeking treatment or have not been treated.
CDC recommends PrEP to anyone with "ongoing high risk for acquiring HIV infection." Groups that might benefit from the drug include HIV-negative people with HIV-positive partners, HIV-negative women who have an HIV-positive partner and want to ensure a healthy pregnancy, men who have sex with men and who engage in unprotected sex, injection drug users and anyone with syphilis or rectal STDs.
Clark said those with a high risk of acquiring the infection should get screened and even if they are negative, they can take PrEP so reduce their changes dramatically. If that person tests positively, the department can begin treatments to suppress the virus immediately.
On Tuesday, Clark says she plans to see about 50 to 75 people with Gubernatorial candidate Daniel Biss, D-Evanston, making an appearance for a few minutes before heading to a debate at Southern Illinois University Carbondale later in the evening.