Jennifer Jako

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Jennifer Jako
Jennifer Jako, activist living with HIV-AIDS in 2012..jpg
Jennifer Jako in 2012
Born 1973 (age 43–44)
Drumright, Oklahoma, United States
Occupation Activist, filmmaker, photographer, product designer
Spouse(s) Christopher John Bleiler (2001-present)

Jennifer Jako (born 1973) is an AIDS activist, filmmaker, photographer, lecturer and designer. She is the co-director of the documentary film, Blood Lines, a portrait of HIV-positive youth. Following her infection with HIV at age 18, she began educating in the hopes of preventing HIV infection in young people. Jako has lectured on the subjects of wellness, reproductive health, survival and understanding to audiences of all ages. She has spoken directly to over 200,000 people and her media outreach has touched over 50 million people. She has been featured in numerous magazines, television shows, and books. Her designed objects are available through retailers under her studio name, fix studio. Together she and husband/co-designer, Christopher Bleiler, have contributed to the branding and interior design of many eateries in the region near Portland, OR, including: clarklewis, Nostrana, Ken's Artisan Pizza & Bakery, Pizzicato Pizza, Lovejoy Bakers, Genoa, Bunk Sandwiches, Daily Cafe, Por Que No II, Vino Manzanita, Thatcher's, and Lapellah.


She was born in Drumright, Oklahoma, to an Italian mother from Padriciano near Trieste and Hungarian father from Nagykovácsi near Budapest. Jako’s nomadic childhood was abusive, impoverished and sometimes homeless.

The countries and states she grew up in include: Oklahoma, Illinois, New York, Colorado, Oregon, Mexico, Canada, Italy, Hungary, the Netherlands, England, Germany, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland, France, Spain, Turkey and Morocco. She is fluent in Spanish, French, Italian and English and speaks some Hungarian, Dutch and German. She attended Summit County High School in Frisco, Colorado, Glencoe High School in Hillsboro, Oregon, Lake Oswego High School in Lake Oswego, Oregon, and Grant High School in Portland, Oregon. She graduated from the latter in 1992.

In 1991, at age 18, she contracted HIV from one exposure from a young man who did not know he was infected. She studied fine art at Ecole Supérieure d’Arts Plastiques in Monte Carlo, Monaco in 1991 and the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA) from 1993-1995 in Portland. After an initial six months of sexual activity at age 18, she became abstinent.

She found out she was HIV positive at age 19 from a routine Pap test appointment at which a nurse encouraged her to get tested for HIV as she had had six partners. Jako did not consider herself to be at risk for HIV nor Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) and conceded to take the test out of social responsibility. She had had sex without a condom once (the source of infection) and had a condom break once. When diagnosed, she was told she would be lucky to live to age 25. During her studies at PNCA in 1995, she began work with another HIV-positive woman, Rebecca Guberman, on a documentary film, Blood Lines, which would later be broadcast on MTV as True Life: It Could Be You from 1999–2004. Production assistance came from the Paul Robeson Fund for Independent Media, Wieden & Kennedy and the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is now distributed as an educational video.

HIV Medications or HAART[edit]

Jako took AZT for two weeks when first diagnosed, but became so ill that she stopped taking the drug. Afterward, she remained drug naïve until 1997. After extensive research and pressured by a failing immune system, Jako began a regimen of Nevirapine, 3TC, and d4T. In 1998 she replaced d4T in her regimen with Abacavir because d4T caused severe side effects. The worst side effect she experienced associated with d4T is lipodystrophy. Jako has permanent truncal adiposity (a collection of fat at the waist, back and neck, and wasting in the extremities.) She also experiences dangerously elevated lipid levels, both cholesterol and triglycerides due to side effects from her medications. The elevated lipids required the addition of Gemfibrozil to control them.

While a treatment advocate, Jako emphasizes the need for patient education and a holistic approach. Her long term success on one three drug combination or HAART is the result of perfect adherence since 1997. Jako has had complete viral suppression for over fifteen years.

HIV and Family Planning[edit]

Jako married Christopher John Bleiler in 2001. Bleiler continues to test negative for HIV. They had a child in 2005 through artificial home self insemination. In 2006, their daughter was born via vaginal delivery. Jako’s daughter has received two HIV DNA PCR, a blood test that looks for direct (DNA) evidence of the virus rather than antibodies, test results with undetectable results, one draw within 24 hours of birth and one at age 9 weeks. These results place her daughter at over a 98% likelihood of good health. Her daughter was tested again at four months at which time a final, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) protocol, determination of her daughter’s HIV status was made. Her daughter was tested a third time and is indeed confirmed HIV negative. Jako continued her strict adherence to a HAART regimen during pregnancy and did not breastfeed her daughter.

Public work and activism[edit]


  • Universities: Elon, Colgate, Hampshire, Idaho State, Michigan, Washington State, Old Dominion, Virginia Commonwealth, Lewis & Clark, Oregon Health Sciences, Virginia Wesleyan College, Reed, Johns Hopkins, Vassar and more…
  • Conferences: Native American Youth Leadership, Sex & TV, Ryan White National Youth, Unitarian Universalist
  • Briefings: Capitol Hill Congressional Staff, MTV – National HIV Testing Day, NBPA Supersonics

Media Profiles:

Book Profiles:
Girlfriends, Jane Wexler & Loren Cowen, Running Press
Women of Courage, Katherine Martin, New World Library

Red Ribbon Award, Coalition for AIDS Education
Ribbon of Hope, TV Cares, Academy of TV Arts & Sciences
Gold World Medal and Best Public Affairs Program, New York Festivals
Golden Eagle Award, CINE
Nominee: Information Programs, Banff Rockie Awards
Best Short, Awarded by Matt Groening at 26th Northwest Film & Video Festival Program


External links[edit]