SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed a law that will create the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund to address the disproportionate rate of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. The Fund will be used for HIV/AIDS prevention efforts and to establish a system for delivering HIV/AIDS services to reduce transmission among African Americans. The recently-approved budget for fiscal year 2007 includes $3 million for the Fund.
“HIV/AIDS is a devastating disease, especially within the African-American community,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “The Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund will be used to take vital steps in preventing the virus’ transmission throughout the African-American community in Illinois. Only by working together can we stop the spread of this deadly virus.”
Senate Bill 1001, sponsored by Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Westchester), amends the State Finance Act to create the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, which contains requirements for the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH):
· IDPH must develop a comprehensive, culturally sensitive HIV Prevention Plan, targeting communities that are identified as high-risk in terms of the impact of the disease on African-Americans;
· IDPH should establish a stable HIV/AIDS service delivery infrastructure in Illinois communities that will meet the needs of African Americans;
· IDPH should also establish at least 17 one-stop HIV/AIDS services facilities across the state.
“For the first time there will be a comprehensive approach to getting African Americans the services they need, start to finish, for HIV/AIDS prevention or treatment. Currently in many African American communities residents have to go from one place to another to get information and treatment. But this Fund will bring those services together for one-stop services,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health. “I would like to thank Governor Blagojevich for taking this step to help stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among African Americans in Illinois.”
“Last year we were able to pass legislation to provide free testing in state offices serving high risk communities,” Sen. Lightford said. “This year, we were able to obtain more funding for the HIV/AIDS crisis that is disproportionately affecting our community. I am pleased to be a part of this measure that is aimed at keeping high-risk communities safe from the progression of HIV/AIDS. By targeting these areas with messages of prevention, we can assist in preventing communities from being ravaged by the virus.”
“Common practice is to fund research to help find a cure for this awful disease,” said Rep. Howard. “Through the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, we will be able to head the virus off at the pass, so to speak, by focusing on prevention first.”
Supporters believe this will be a dedicated effort to address rising rates of HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Supporters also believe an effort focused specifically on outreach and prevention is necessary, since many state groups dedicate funding to research and other non-prevention efforts.
More than $3 million in grant funds have already been awarded to minority HIV/AIDS efforts through the Illinois Department of Public Health’s (IDPH) Center for Minority Health Services.
On September 15, 2005, Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich launched a comprehensive HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to address the alarming trend of infection among the state’s African-American community. The initiative is called the BASUAH Project: Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS and is administered by the IDPH Center for Minority Health Services.
Through community outreach, testing and positive peer influence, the mission to reduce new cases of HIV/AIDS while empowering people with the knowledge to better protect themselves has been well received in communities around the state. The creation of the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund will build on the awareness BASUAH has started.
The new law goes into effect January 1, 2007.