Illinois PrEPs for new HIV prevention program


The call of “Step up. Get tested.” rang out at a recent World AIDs Day event. Illinois plans to add one-a-day pill prevention as another layer of protection starting in January. 

By Adrienne Hurst

The young saga of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a one-a-day medication that prevents HIV infection, reads much like the old story of the birth control pill.

Though it was approved by the FDA in 2012, PrEP continues to be stigmatic and little-prescribed despite endorsement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization and Human Rights Campaign. The monthly cost of $1,539.90 can also place it out of reach. Early next year, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) plans to change all of that.

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Hip resurfacing offers bone-saving alternative to total hip replacement

Scripted by Michaela Meaney, animated by Next Media Animation. 

By Michaela Meaney 

At 53 years old, arthritis controlled Timothy Byrne’s life. The pain in his hip affected just about everything he did. He could not sleep. He had trouble getting in and out of the car. Even bending over to start the lawn mower felt like a challenge.

“I really couldn’t pull the pull cord on the lawn mower anymore because of the pain factor,” said Byrne, of Wickliffe, Ohio, now 57 years old. “And, you know, if it takes three of four pulls to get the lawn mower started, I could hardly pull it once without being in excruciating pain, much less walking to mow it once it started.”

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Epitome Boutique Seeks New Location to Boost Sales

By: Janel Forte

The Epitome Boutique is a small business ran by Laricia Chandler that offers urban clothing, shoes and accessories. While the boutique tends to be more profitable in the summer, a recent slump caused by the opening of new shopping centers in the South Loop neighborhood and Hyde Park is forcing the boutique to find a new location that’s more accessible to its clients.

NYPD and DuPage County naloxone programs saving lives. CPD adoption remains uncertain

Scripted by Melissa Schenkman. Animated by Next Media Animation.

By Melissa Schenkman

The long-time drug user, the patient taking prescription opioid pain medication, the high school student experimenting with drugs, and the child who confuses pills with candy, all have one thing in common.  They all represent people at-risk of an opioid drug overdose, the people NYPD officers have been trained to save.

Police officers armed with naloxone nasal spray, the intranasal opioid drug overdose antidote, have saved 18 lives since a Staten Island program began earlier this year.

The success is spurring the department to make strides in expanding its training, with the goal of equipping the entire police force of approximately 35,000 NYPD officers with naloxone kits. That would extend the program across all five boroughs of New York City.

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Wildlife face fatalities in the push for green energy

Two wind turbines provide energy for a Walgreens in Evanston at 635 Chicago Ave.

By Michaela Meaney

Wildlife advocates see enormous risks for birds, bats and other animals as wind turbines spread across the country. The major concern is how to prevent wildlife fatalities in the push to go green.

“We’ve rushed toward alternative energy without having the knowledge or experience to control it regularly,” said Michael Hutchins, at a recent panel discussion hosted by the Chicago Ornithological Society and Sierra Club.

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Tailwinds to Push Profits for Airlines

Major-Airline-Operational-Revenue-First-9-Months-2013-First-9-Months-2014_chartbuilder

Passengers at Philadelphia Int'l Airport Dec 11 Janel Forte/Medill Reports

Passengers at Philadelphia Int’l Airport Dec 11 Janel Forte/Medill Reports

By: Janel Forte

This has been one heck of a year for the airline industry.

Through the year’s first nine months, earnings at every major carrier have risen. The year-end numbers due out soon will confirm what the industry, and Wall Street, already expect: the upward trend isn’t likely to be ending anytime soon.

The industry is benefiting from declining fuel prices, strong demand and — thanks to consolidation among players — the absence of the kind of profit busting price wars that once plagued the airline sector.

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Falling gas prices raise holiday spending prospects

By Melissa “Missy” Enaje

Santa might have to work overtime this holiday season as retail sales surged in November by a stronger-than-expected 0.7 percent, up more than 5 percent from a year ago, the Commerce Department reported. A sharp drop in energy prices is giving consumers more spending power and they appear to be using it.

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CTA riders give mixed reviews on screenings for explosives

By Beth Lawrence

The Chicago Police Department has recently begun randomly screening CTA passengers’ bags for explosive material.  There is no specific terrorist threat against Chicago’s public transit system, but officials say the new program is a deterrent to crime.

Passengers agree that safety is important, but some question the cost of giving up privacy for safety.

The struggle to patch up Illinois’ imperiled pension system

By Evan Garcia

Last December, Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed an overhaul of the state’s pension system into law to gradually remedy the state’s $110 billion shortfall in public pension payments – the highest deficit of its kind in the United States. Quinn’s legislation increased the retirement age for government workers 45 and younger while decreasing the annual 3 percent cost-of-living increases applied to retirees’ benefits. Legislators projected that Quinn’s pension reform would lower the pension deficit to $21 billion by 2044.

Labor unions immediately sued, arguing the law violated the Illinois Constitution, and Sangamon County Circuit Court Judge John Belz agreed. Specifically, Belz pointed to a clause in the state constitution that dictates state pension benefits “not be diminished or impaired.” Belz’s ruling threw Quinn’s progress on pensions into limbo. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, hoping to overturn the judgment, is appealing the case to the state’s supreme court.

But if the higher court affirms the unconstitutionality of Quinn’s law, the Illinois legislature will find itself between a rock and a hard place. The obvious question facing lawmakers: How can Illinois dig itself out of this hole?

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City of Chicago makes fruitful efforts to eliminate food deserts

By Courtney Dillard 

Click the image above to see how grocery store choices change drastically by neighborhood.

Click the image above to see how grocery store choices change drastically by neighborhood.

Nia Arnold is a guidance clerk at one of Chicago Public Schools’ 11 selective enrollment high schools. The closest grocery store to her school has always been Jewel Osco, nearly three miles away. Two months ago Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market opened about four blocks away.

Before Wal-Mart opened, Arnold’s school was in one of the many food deserts on Chicago’s South Side. She says that even though there are healthy options available in and around the school, students still make unhealthy decisions.

“As soon as the bell rings, kids go to McDonald’s, Golden Fish and Chicken, or White Castle,” Arnold said. “Food desert or not, that’s a choice.”

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Smoque Vapours employee Matt Brannen takes a vaping break. Michael Epstein/MEDILL

Chicago e-cigarette users create vaping culture

By Michael Epstein

Jared Yucht started vaping — inhaling nicotine and water vapor through devices like e-cigarettes — to quit smoking, but it has come to play a central role in his life, both for work and play.

“It’s fun,” said Yucht. “It’s a hobby.”

It’s not just a hobby for Yucht who owns Smoque Vapours, a chain of specialty vape shops in Illinois and Wisconsin that sell a wide range of hand vaporizers, essentially e-cigarettes, and the chain’s own brand of artisanal “e-liquids.” These flavored nicotine solutions for vapers use refillable tank-based e-cigarettes and customizable hand-vaporizers called “mods.” Vape shops, which are exempt from Chicago’s citywide e-cigarette ban, are becoming natural havens for those who vape for a hobby. 

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Chicago Catholics embrace their new archbishop

By Ramsen Shamon

Blase Cupich, Chicago’s new Catholic Archbishop, has received a warm welcome from the Windy City. Cupich, 65, previously served as a bishop in Spokane, Washington before replacing Cardinal Francis George, who has retired and is battling cancer.

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