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An Ounce Of Prevention Offered For Teens

Office of state Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr.
Chicago Democratic Rep. Lamont Robinson Jr.

The rates of HIV infection in Illinois are decreasing among adults, but are climbing among people ages 13 to 24, especially youth of color. So, advocates want to encourage young people to use a preventative medication.

Chicago Democratic Representative Lamont Robinson Jr. sponsored legislation that would give people as young as 12 years old access to the HIV prevention drug called PREP — without requiring permission from a parent or guardian. The once-a-day pill can effectively prevent the disease if taken properly.

“Unfortunately, within our youth in the black and brown community, we’re seeing an increase in HIV rates, and so this bill saves lives essentially," Robinson says. "It is a safety net."

He says the measure would help homeless youth and kids who can’t talk to their parents about sexual activity. 

Advocates have pushed for the measure because HIV infection rates are on the rise among the young, sexually active population, and there was confusion in the medical community over whether a law giving minors permission to get tested for HIV also covered PREP, according to Aditi Singh, director of government relation for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Kristin Keglovitz Baker, chief operating officer at the Howard Brown Health Center in Chicago, is one of those advocates.

"We need to increase the number of people on PREP, especially the number of people on PREP who are being hardest hit in their communities, and this bill really opens up access," she says.

Nearly 70 percent of the youth with HIV in Illinois are black males who have had sex with other males.

The measure awaits Gov.  J.B. Prtizker’s signature


Maureen Foertsch McKinney is lead editor of Illinois Issues' feature articles, working with freelance writers, and covering the equity beat. Maureen joined the Illinois Issues in 1998 as projects editor. Previously, she worked at three Illinois daily newspapers, most recently the suburban Chicago-based Daily Herald, where she served stints as an education reporter and copy editor. She graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's in journalism. She also has a master's degree in English from the University of Illinois at Springfield.
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