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Eliminating HIV in Illinois

One in seven people living with HIV don’t even know they have it. (WCCU)

One in seven people living with HIV don’t even know they have it.

Wanting to eliminate HIV hits close to home with Terry Lake, who lived through the 80's.

"People were just dropping off like flies,” Lake said. “You cared for somebody until they died and then cared for somebody till they died and then cared for somebody till they died. And I knew I'd been at risk, but I wasn't sick. And then in '91 there was anonymous or confidential testing, whatever they were called back then, and I did a confidential test just thinking well I had been at risk. And I tested positive."

Lake says that test saved his life and it could save others, as well.

In fact, members of the Aids Foundation of Chicago say this is the first time they think getting to zero is actually possible in our state.

"We today have the technology and the policies in place to get to zero new cases in Illinois,” Aids Foundation of Chicago President John Peller said. “That's the point where by 2027 we're aiming to have zero new HIV infections in the state, as well as zero people with HIV who are not engaged in medical care."

Illinois has the fifth highest rate of HIV in the country. The only way to know if you have HIV is by getting tested.

Terry Lake thinks the biggest barrier is people not wanting to know their status because they don't want to give up sex. But he says he's been with his partner for 21 years, who is still HIV negative.

"There's treatment and I've lived since ’91,” Lake said. “Actually I believe I was probably infected in the early ‘80s and I made it against all odds. And I'm grateful for the life I've got, so don't give up."

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