SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today honored World AIDS Day in Illinois by ordering lights at the Capitol building in Springfield and other state government buildings be dimmed to coincide with the candlelight vigil scheduled in Washington D.C. The World AIDS Day 2006 campaign “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise,” calls on government leaders and policy makers continue funding HIV and AIDS education and prevention programs and to make all the necessary resources available in order to overcome the AIDS epidemic.
“Here in Illinois, we are keeping our promise to provide necessary resources for access to care, treatment and support in order to overcome the AIDS epidemic,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “Every level of our society is affected by the devastation of HIV and AIDS. To win this fight, we need to broaden our efforts to educate and raise awareness about prevention and testing.”
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the identification of AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is estimated more than 25 million people have died of AIDS-related causes since 1981.
Gov. Blagojevich has been a leader in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The Governor boosted spending for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) by $2.5 million in fiscal year 2007 bringing it to a total of $41 million. These funds allow more people with HIV or AIDS, who meet eligibility requirements, to be served and increase the number of life sustaining medicines. ADAP, considered one of the best drug assistance programs in the country, provides HIV prescriptions to thousands of clients each month.
Gov. Blagojevich also signed House Bill 4302, which added HIV/AIDS to the list of diseases covered under the Illinois Cares Rx program. This program provides prescription drug assistance to low-income seniors and persons with disabilities that suffer from certain illnesses or conditions. For people who qualify for both Medicare Part D and Illinois Cares Rx Basic, HIV/AIDS drugs covered by Medicare Part D will be “wrapped” so that these individuals will have small affordable co-payments.
Programs targeting communities of color, which include African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, are a top priority of the state’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. For fiscal year 2007, the Governor has budgeted $3.2 million for Minority AIDS Prevention. Last year, the Governor also launched BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS), an aggressive $2.5 million HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to address the alarming trend of infection among the state’s African-American community.
The Governor has charged Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health, with leading delegations to Africa to be involved in this Pandemic at the international level. This summer, Dr. Whitaker visited the Republic of Liberia in West Africa to provide assistance for implementing a program to prevent mother to child HIV transmission. The delegation provided assistance that helped Liberian health officials receive a $44 million Global Fund grant. Dr. Whitaker is currently in South Africa as part of a sister state exchange between the Northern Cape Province and the State of Illinois.
“The message is simple—to stop AIDS we must get tested to know our status and avoid behaviors that put us at risk,” said Dr. Whitaker. “In Illinois, AIDS numbers are down because of better medical therapies to slow down the progression from HIV to AIDS. But, by contrast, HIV numbers are up because of risky behavior – unprotected sex, multiple sex partners, and sharing needles to inject drugs.”
In Illinois, there have been 32,641 reported cases of AIDS since 1981. Illinois has the sixth highest total of AIDS cases in the nation.
In remembrance of Illinoisans who have lost their lives to this disease, a World AIDS Day observance will be held from 6:45 p.m. until 7:00 p.m. The lights will be dimmed at the State Capitol Rotunda in Springfield, and in Chicago at the James R. Thompson Center and Bilandic Building. The Illinois Department of Public Health will offer free HIV testing from 6:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. at Union Baptist Church in Springfield.
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. Information about HIV/AIDS is also available at www.basuah.org.
The Illinois Department of Public Health will also hold more than 20 HIV/AIDS testing and awareness events today across the state. A list of the events accompanies this release.