The hospital's Pediatric/Adolescent HIV/AIDS Center is the largest center of its kind in the Midwest. In addition to medical care, the social and emotional well-being of these children are addressed to help them lead happy, fulfilling and productive lives. Our HIV education and outreach team helps educators create an environment that supports the health needs of children with HIV beyond the walls of the hospital.
We also work to fulfill the needs of adolescents and young adults living with HIV/AIDS and to provide services to high-risk teens. The hospital has also been active in policy efforts establishing state and federal policies to promote prenatal/newborn HIV testing and treatment to prevent mother to newborn HIV transmission as follows:
Newborn HIV Prevention
When we began our work in 1994, HIV represented the seventh leading cause of death to children. The majority of these cases resulted from mother-to-newborn HIV transmission during pregnancy and delivery. With medical, scientific, pharmaceutical and technological advances (i.e. rapid HIV testing kits yielding results in approximately 20 minutes), however, it was shown that mother-to-newborn HIV infection could be reduced dramatically through prenatal HIV detection and treatment.
Even without prenatal detection, scientific evidence demonstrated that a 50% reduction in newborns HIV could be achieved if infants were tested and administered protective medication (AZT) within the first 24-48 hours after birth.
For more than a decade, we’ve collaborated with the Section on Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal HIV and the hospital’s government relations and community relations teams to advance public policy at federal and state levels. We support legislation to strengthen prenatal care practices to achieve these life-saving measures.
As a result of these efforts, more than a 99% reduction in mother-to-newborn HIV transmission has been achieved, with recognition of Illinois by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as a national model for preventing mother-to-newborn HIV transmission. Legislative accomplishments have included:
- Amendment of the Illinois Managed Care Act to ensure payment for prenatal and newborn HIV testing
- Establishing mandatory newborn HIV testing legislation for all newborns when the HIV status of the mother is unknown at the time of birth
- Strengthening prenatal HIV testing to require routine HIV testing as a routine part of prenatal care, with a woman’s right to “opt-out”
We’ve also collaborated with leadership in the Division of Pediatric, Adolescent and Maternal HIV in supporting widespread professional education of prenatal care providers to guide the implementation of these prenatal and newborn care practices.
Adolescent HIV Prevention
In contrast to the advances in reduction in newborn HIV infection, behaviorally acquired HIV transmission has escalated to alarming rates. The CDC estimates that 50 adolescents each day acquire HIV through unsafe behaviors. Targeted education to adolescents about protection from acquiring and transmitting HIV and encouraging HIV testing among adolescents are the most effective methods available to stem this alarming trend.
We’ve been a longstanding collaborator in supporting the prevention of HIV among adolescents by:
- Collaborating with churches and other representatives of the faith community on the South Side of Chicago to conduct targeted intervention to adolescents in this high prevalence area
- Participating in the implementation of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy in Illinois
- Supporting school-based HIV prevention education
- Supporting adolescent peer education on HIV prevention