Chicagoans reflect on 40 year anniversary of first cases of AIDS in U.S.

Forty year ago, an HIV or AIDS diagnosis was terrifying, mysterious and deadly. In 2021, it's an entirely different situation.

Video Transcript

WILL JONES: Cordelia McKnight was diagnosed with HIV in 1992.

CORDELIA MCKNIGHT: I thought that that was going to be a death sentence for me.

WILL JONES: It took her years to realize she could not only live, but also thrive.

CORDELIA MCKNIGHT: I do take my medication faithfully, and like I said, if you get me to the point where I'm undetectable, people look at me like you don't look like you have HIV. OK, well, what does HIV look like?

WILL JONES: It's been 40 years since the first documented AIDS cases in the US. The devastating advanced stage of HIV infection. It has killed more than 700,000 Americans. There have been medical advancements in treatment, but still no cure.

CORDELIA MCKNIGHT: If ever since day one, when they told me that I need to start taking a medication, I wondered why the heck wasn't there a vaccine for it.

WILL JONES: In 2019, non-Hispanic Blacks in Chicago accounted for 56% of new HIV cases, and nearly 57% of AIDS diagnoses. That's according to the Chicago Department of Public Health. Cynthia Tucker is with AIDS Foundation, Chicago.

CYNTHIA TUCKER: We are really impacted by racism, poverty, the lack of health care access.

WILL JONES: That's why McKnight believes it's important to use her voice. She's one of dozens of women who shared their experiences for the I'm Still Surviving project, headed by UIC history Professor Jennifer Brier.

CORDELIA MCKNIGHT: I wish people know that they can survive.

JENNIFER BRIER: We understand that of course, ways of caring for people with HIV have to involve housing. They have to involve child care. They have to involve transportation. Can't just be about biomedical solutions.

WILL JONES: Will Jones, ABC 7, Eyewitness News.