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?