*In Chicago, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) hosted a grand opening and ribbon-cutting ceremony on Wednesday for its new AHF Remote Consultation Pharmacy in Hyde Park located at 1515 E. 52nd Place, Suite 206, Chicago, IL 60615.
Both the AHF Healthcare Center and AHF Remote Consultation Pharmacy will operate on Tuesdays from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
“We recognize the fact that there are particular characteristics of different communities and that there are challenges of transportation and cultural concerns, so we have to be located where the people are comfortable in going,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein in his dedication remarks.
“I’ve been doing this work for 30 years, and when I started I had to do everything myself. Funding continues to be significantly reduced or they make you have to jump through many hoops to get it,” he continued. “We saw a growing need and disparity in HIV/AIDS services in Chicago and when we met a couple of years ago with Vanessa Smith of South Side Help Center (SSHC), that bond started on day one.”
Ceremony guests included Chicago-area HIV AIDS advocacy leaders and service provider directors from multiple community based organizations, including Connect to Protect, Men and Women in Prison Ministries, and South Side HIV/AIDS Resource Coalition (SSHARC).
Other AHF speakers included Dr. Kaleo Staszkow, AHF Healthcare Center Medical Director (who also oversees AHF Healthcare Center at 2600 South Michigan Avenue); Donna Tempesta, VP, AHF Northern Region and Finance; and Tracy Jones, AHF Midwest Region and National Advocacy Campaign Director.
SSHC Executive Director Vanessa Smith expressed appreciation for AHF’s affiliation that will help extend services to Chicago’s African-American community. Two mobile units will travel throughout the South Side to screen for HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C and provide linkage to care.
In closing, Brother’s Health Collective Executive Director Ariq Cabbler and Charles Nelson, SSHC’s MSM project director, both reflected on working in the same building more than 20 years ago with other agencies that provided HIV/AIDS services but were suspended due to budget reallocations to other parts of the city.
AHF Healthcare Centers aim to decrease the number of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses by providing:
- Free HIV testing so people can be aware of their status;
- Immediate linkage into care – regardless of ability to pay – for those who test positive; and
- Support through ongoing follow-ups to ensure adherence to a health regimen that will ultimately extend life expectancies and reduce the risk of transmission.
According to City of Chicago’s 2015 HIV/STI Surveillance Report, Chicago has seen a 3 percent annual decrease in new HIV diagnoses, and the number of new HIV infection diagnoses fell in 2014, down by 48 percent from 2001.
While Chicago is ahead of the nation in linking newly diagnosed HIV positive individuals to care and ultimately to viral suppression, new HIV infection diagnoses in 2014 were highest among those who identify as male (83.2%), were reported as MSM (78.3%), and were 30 years of age or older at diagnosis. Non-Hispanic (NH) Blacks, which account for nearly 1/3 of Chicago’s population, represented over 50% of prevalent cases, new infection diagnoses, and new AIDS diagnoses.
In February 2015, AHF announced its affiliation with the South Side Help Center, a community-based organization that has provided critical services to HIV-positive individuals since 1987. AHF’s Healthcare Center located at 2600 South Michigan Ave., Suite LL-D also opened last February.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the largest global AIDS organization, currently provides medical care and/or services to over 611,000 individuals in 36 countries worldwide in the US, Africa, Latin America/Caribbean, the Asia/Pacific Region and Eastern Europe. To learn more about AHF, please visit our website:www.aidshealth.org, find us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare
Creola A. Kizart-Hampton