HIV leading cause of death for black women 25 to 34

Photo illustration by Joe Gallo

Historically considered a gay man's disease, HIV has a different face in Illinois. The virus is the leading cause of death for black women between the ages of 25 and 34, according to Illinois Department of Public Health data cited by Medill students Camille M. Doty and Jessica Krinke.

Doty and Krinke note that about 70 percent of Illinois women living with HIV are African American, even though black women make up only 15 percent of the state's female population.

Overall, though, men who have sex with men still represent the group with the highest number of people who have the virus in Illinois.

Published two days after World AIDS Day, the story is a reminder that the disease has evolved dramatically since its introduction into the United States-a process that the late Randy Shilts chronicled in his pioneering book, And the Band Played On.

Shilts describes the indifference Reagan-era political leaders displayed toward the suffering of gay men.

Earlier this year, The Chicago Reporter devoted a special issue to the subject of HIV in Illinois' black community. The report found questionable expenditures in a fund specifically set aside for the state's black community as well as a mismatch between the epidemic and the funding to fight it.

Doty and Krinke profiled Yvette Williams, a 42-year-old Oak Park resident who was diagnosed with the virus 2000. In the story she speaks openly about having contracted the virus from having unprotected sex.

What role do individuals and government play in fighting the spread of HIV?

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  • I'm not surprised by the abuse of funds. I have been thinking about this lately, not the idea that black women are contracting HIV at the rate they are, but more about the cost (and this is part of that cost) of imprisoning so large a part of a population as the consequence of hastily written, poorly thought through laws. I had not considered this but this definitely part of the cost of justice since so many of the women who are affected by this are the result of drug laws, one way or the other.

    But that rise is also because of some failure in our community to address our own sexuality (not just the gay part either) the fact is that folk like to get laid and we need to address it like that and stop hiding behind Jesus as this issue overwhelms the black community. If passing out condoms and a needle exchange program will save lives which will save money (how many of the victims wind up being taken care of by public funding)?

    I guess it has kind of fallen off the radar since people are living with HIV and not dying from it at the rate they once were.

  • Oh yeah, instead of simple percentages, which stopped having any impact, why don't people use real hard numbers?

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