Half of Chicago’s HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) and two thirds of positive black MSM were unaware of their status, according to a recent study by the Chicago Department of Public Health as reported by the Chi-Town Daily News.

Additionally, the report found that 30 percent of black MSM tested positive, while 12 percent of Hispanics and 11.3 percent of whites tested positive; 39 percent of the nearly 600 MSM who participated in the study did not get tested in the previous year out of fear of a positive result.

According to Jim Pickett, director of advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), the study proves a need to reevaluate how MSM approach health. He recommends that MSM get tested three times a year; the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently advises that they get tested once annually.

Additionally, with 40 percent of those surveyed admitting to illicit drug use, Pickett suggested that HIV be incorporated into “a broader or more holistic framework” that includes tackling mental and physical health, depression and substance abuse.

“The moral of the story is we want to catch people early in their infection,” Pickett said. “We don’t want people to test positive; we want them to test negative. And we want to provide them with the right kind of counseling and the right tools to maintain that negative.”

Chicago’s Health Department is proposing to expand testing and condom distribution and to create more community-level interventions and outreach programs through organizations such as the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC).