CHICAGO — Blake Miller-Boeing has beaten all the odds and now has a special message in sharing his story. By the time he realized he was sick, he was diagnosed with full blown AIDS. Once a death sentence, he is healthy now and helping raise awareness and funds to help others.
“Based off of a few doctors I talked to, they think I probably had it for 5-plus years,” he said.
That was back in 2019. The marathon runner was 29-years-old at the time.
“That December I had a fever of 104, and that is when I found out I tested positive for HIV and AIDS at the time, too, just based off of my levels,” he said.
When HIV goes undiagnosed or untreated, the fast-replicating virus can progress to aids — a more profound destruction of the immune system that leaves patients vulnerable to opportunistic infections.
For patients like Miller-Boeing, modern antiretroviral medications have changed the course. They inhibit the lifecycle of the virus with one daily dose or a monthly injection to keep viral load in check.
But the drugs are expensive.
“I had a $2,500 dollar at Meijer that I was panicking over because I didn’t have the money,” he said. “So I just didn’t do it.
Juan Mercado has devoted his career to caring for people living with HIV.
“I grew up in an era where we were not allowed even to touch a person with HIV,” he said. “We went from a death sentence to a chronic disease to a very well controlled chronic disease.”
The nurse practitioner treats patients at Open Door Health Centers of Illinois where the doors are open thanks in part to funding from AIDS Foundation Chicago.
Perry Maier is executive director at Open Door Health Center of Illinois.
“They fund 100% of our case management services. Without AFC, or AIDS Foundation Chicago, we wouldn’t be able to hire these individuals to come out here and help,” he said.
The clinic in northwest suburban Elgin draws patients from Chicagoland and beyond and offers rapid testing, routine care and access to medicines.
“They got me medication right away, and I was able to leave with a 30-day supply,” Miller-Boeing said.
“They work! They work 100%. We know that if a person is controlled on an antiretroviral, they cannot transmit the virus,” Mercado said.
Undetectable equals untransmutable, the patient cannot spread the disease.
“I went from a process of being terrified to undetectable that took 11 months. Running for me was an escape,” Miller-Boeing said.
Now the miles serve another purpose. Miller-Boeing is part of T2: The Team to End AIDS. The group has raised more than $14 million to help support AFC and organizations like Open Door.
“I would not wish that terrified reaction on anyone. I would not wish this on anybody. If I can help make a little bit more of that difference and make sure we are putting care and people know what the care is going to, that’s what really matters,” Miller-Boeing said.
WGN’s Dean Richards will host this year’s AIDS Run and Walk on Saturday, September 30.
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