SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – As Illinois and the nation prepare to observe the impact of the AIDS epidemic on World AIDS Day, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich today announced he has moved to address the growing concern of HIV/AIDS among minorities by adding $1 million in state funds to the $2 million already budgeted this fiscal year for the effort.
“HIV/AIDS has had a disproportionate impact on minorities, particularly African Americans,” the Governor said. “This money will be used to help address an urgent public health need by funding projects that will be developed by and targeted to individuals who are both infected and affected by the disease at the community level.”
Blagojevich noted that while African Americans represent 15 percent of the state’s population they account for nearly 60 percent of the 3,100 AIDS cases diagnosed in Illinois over the last three years and more than half of the 3,900 new HIV infections.
In addition to the money specifically earmarked for minorities, the Governor also was successful in getting approval last week from the General Assembly to spend $5.1 million in new federal funds for the state’s AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP). ADAP provides more than 70 life-saving drugs to about 3,000 clients a month who have a gross income at or below 400 percent of poverty ($35,920 for a family of one).
Blagojevich’s HIV/AIDS budget this year for the Illinois Department of Public Health stands at $55 million, with $35 million for ADAP and the remainder for counseling, testing, services, housing, education and risk reduction.
Illinois has recorded 30,057 cases of AIDS since 1981 and, of those diagnosed with the disease, 16,442, or nearly 55 percent have died. Illinois has the seventh highest total of AIDS cases in the nation.
As part of the nation’s 16th annual World AIDS Day on Monday (Dec. 1), Blagojevich said the state will hold a number of special events and remembrances including an observance at noon in the state Capitol in which Louanner Peters, the Governor’s deputy chief of staff for Human Services, will speak; a candlelight vigil in the state Capitol rotunda at 5:30 p.m.; and a ceremonial dimming of lights on state government buildings, including the state Capitol and the James R. Thompson Center in Chicago.
“This is a day of reflection, remembrance and reaffirmation,” Blagojevich said. “It’s a day to reflect on the loss of lives caused by AIDS and remember those still living with this devastating disease. It is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to continue the efforts to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and to prevent further transmission.”
With a theme of “Uniting to Confront the HIV/AIDS Crisis,” this year’s World AIDS Day in Illinois has as its goal the bringing together of all stakeholders to combat the disease.
“People with HIV/AIDS are often discriminated against,” Blagojevich said. “They are often blamed for their illness and made to feel shame. This negative behavior needs to stop and we should put all our energies into helping those who have the disease.”
To visually represent the lives of Illinoisans lost to this disease, the state Capitol dome and holiday lights will be turned off Monday from 6:45 p.m. to 7 p.m., as will lights at the Illinois Department of Public Health headquarters in Springfield (525-535 W. Jefferson St.) and in Chicago at the James R. Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph St) and the State of Illinois Building (160 N. LaSalle St.). The White House and public and private buildings throughout the nation also will dim lights Monday evening.
First observed on Dec. 1, 1988, World AIDS Day is held annually and serves to strengthen global efforts to address the challenges of the AIDS pandemic.
To provide information about HIV/AIDS and the locations for free counseling and testing sites, the Illinois Department of Public Health operates a toll-free Illinois HIV, AIDS and STD Hotline. The hotline can be reached at 1-800-243-2437 or TTY 1-800-782-0423 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays and between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. weekends.