CHICAGO –The STEP UP, GET TESTED: ChicaGO for 5K campaign, a collaboration of healthcare agencies, including the Cook County Health and Hospitals System, the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center, the Chicago Department of Public Health and other AIDS service organizations throughout the city of Chicago, announced the successful start of their efforts to boost HIV testing throughout Chicagoland area. The campaign aims to test at least 5,000 Chicago-area residents through June 29.

“The most recent estimate found that an estimated 20% of those infected with HIV in Chicago – approximately 4,800 people – remain undiagnosed. It’s vital that more healthcare settings make routine screening a part of their regular care to make sure the undiagnosed know their status and receive the care they need to live long, healthy lives,“ said Dr. Raju from the Cook County Health & Hospitals System.

“We know that 50-70% of new infections are driven by the 25% of people who don’t know their status,” said Robert A. Weinstein, MD, and COO of the CORE Center. “It is clear that through routine screening we can find the patients who otherwise would never know their status. Testing is the first step in curbing the epidemic.”

“We are excited to take part in this collaborative effort that focuses on raising awareness about the important of HIV testing and testing more people for HIV,” said Jose Munoz, Deputy Commissioner, Chicago Department of Public Health. “There is not one solution to preventing HIV- but combined efforts, we can achieve this goal.”

According to the Chicago Department of Public Health, in 2009 there were 1,092 people diagnosed with HIV infections, 40 percent of them under the age of 30. There are 20,391 people living with HIV infection in Chicago. Estimating that 20 percent of people infected with HIV are unaware of their status, there could be over 25,000 people living with HIV in the city.

Throughout the month, the organizations taking part in the STEP UP, GET TESTED initiative are hosting a series of testing events across the city offering free, rapid HIV testing services, prevention education and other resources. The campaign also highlights health centers and hospitals that offer HIV testing as a part of their regular healthcare offerings throughout the year. The campaign is a part of Healthy Chicago, the City’s public health agenda, to reduce the number of new infections of HIV by 25%. Routine HIV testing initiatives contribute to earlier diagnosis of HIV, thus reducing the number of late HIV infections.

The State of Illinois has the 6th largest number of people living with HIV/AIDS in the country, with 34,000 residents living with HIV. Geographically, the city of Chicago represents 65% of the new cases in the state, with the suburbs of Chicago following at 22%.