Illinois: Cook County Jail to Resume HIV/STD Testing

In what AIDS activists are calling a "tremendous step towards fighting HIV in Cook County," officials are reinstating HIV/STD testing at the Cook County jail after a three-year hiatus.

"If we are to make a difference in the AIDS epidemic, we must reach people at risk where they are, and sometimes that's behind bars," said the Rev. Doris Green of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.

Under the new policy, all of the 100,000 detainees who pass through the facility annually will be tested unless they opt out. Under the current system, testing is available to inmates who request it, as 7,000 to 10,000 do each year. Officials hope the new policy will raise the number tested to 50,000.

According to CDC, Chicago's rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis are among the highest in the nation, a situation officials hope this new policy will help reverse.

"When people know they're positive, they change their behavior and stop transmitting it to other people," Cook County Board Commissioner Bridget Gainer said.

Concurrent with the new policy, jail officials are constructing a new 22-room intake facility that will provide detainees more space and privacy during health screenings. It is hoped the change will encourage HIV/STD testing.

In addition, the jail will use resources at Stroger Hospital to process blood tests overnight and provide results by morning. The intent is to inform even short-stay detainees of positive HIV/STD test results and initiate care as soon as possible.