SPRINGFIELD, Ill. – Gov. Rod Blagojevich today announced that on the nation’s 17th annual observance of World AIDS Day, the state will hold an afternoon remembrance ceremony and an evening candlelight vigil. Both events Wednesday are sponsored by the Illinois Department of Public Health. World AIDS Day also will be observed by dimming the Capitol dome lights and lights at other state government buildings.
“Today we remember those who have lost their lives to AIDS and those still fighting the disease and living with HIV/AIDS,” Gov. Blagojevich said. “World AIDS Day is also a time to reaffirm our commitment to promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, education and prevention in order to prevent further transmission of this devastating disease.”
Despite two years of budget deficits, Gov. Blagojevich increased funding for the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS. The Governor was successful in getting the General Assembly to spend an additional $3.1 million in general revenue funds on the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which was increased from $7 million to $10.1 million. The program has a total budget of $35 million.
In addition, an extra $1 million in state funds was added in Fiscal Year 2005 to the $2 million already budgeted in Fiscal Year 2004 for minority AIDS prevention efforts. Gov. Blagojevich noted that while African Americans represent 15 percent of the state’s population they account for nearly 54 percent of the AIDS cases diagnosed in Illinois and more than half of new HIV infections.
In Illinois, there have been 30,971 reported cases of AIDS since 1981 and, of those diagnosed with the disease, 16,613 or nearly 54 percent have died. Illinois has the sixth highest total of AIDS cases in the nation.
A World AIDS Day observance will be held from noon to 2 p.m. in the State Capitol Rotunda. FOX TV’s “Divorce Court” Judge Mablean Emphriam will be the keynote speaker. Other speakers include Louanner Peters, the Governor’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Human Services and Tom Hughes with the Illinois Department of Public Health’s Office of Health Protection. Illinoisans who have been diagnosed with HIV will also tell their personal stories.
The candlelight vigil will be held at 7 p.m. at the Illinois State Library. Anyone is welcome to gather at the library and light a candle in remembrance of a loved one lost to the disease or to give hope to those still living with HIV/AIDS.
To visually represent the lives of Illinoisans lost to this disease, the Capitol dome lights will be dimmed from 6:45 p.m. to 7 p.m. The lights also will be dimmed at this time at the Illinois Department of Public Health headquarters in Springfield (525 W. Jefferson St.), and in Chicago at the James R. Thompson Center (100 W. Randolph St.) and the Michael A. Bilandic Building (160 N. LaSalle St.). The White House and public and private buildings throughout the nation also will dim lights Wednesday 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, which continues to spread throughout every region of the world.
The toll-free Illinois AIDS/HIV and STD Hotline is available to answer questions about HIV/AIDS and to provide locations of free counseling and testing services. 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.