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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
February 6, 2007

Gov. Blagojevich calls on universities and students to join the fight against HIV/AIDS
February 7th is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

SPRINGFIELD – Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s administration will again join forces with students at the University of Illinois at Springfield, as part of his BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) Project, during the university’s event tomorrow in observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. February 7 is recognized each year as National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day to increase awareness, participation and support for HIV prevention, care and treatment among African Americans. Representatives from the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) will attend the event and encourage students to become BASUAH ambassadors.

Gov. Blagojevich launched BASUAH, the HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, in 2005 to focus on education, prevention and testing in the African American community. African Americans made up more than half of the newly reported 2004 HIV cases in the state while they only represent 15 percent of the state’s population. In 2006, one year after the launch of BASUAH, the rate of new HIV cases had dropped.

“Young people and African-Americans continue to be infected with HIV and AIDS at an alarming rate, so we must increase our efforts to promote education, prevention, and testing,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “By having college students join our BASUAH campaign, we’re spreading this message on campus, one of the places where it’s most critical to raise awareness.”

One element of BASUAH includes partnering with colleges and universities to provide on-campus rapid HIV/AIDS testing and to establish peer networks to encourage testing. HIV/AIDS testing is a critical component of any program to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. African-American college students are at particular risk because of risky behaviors for HIV/AIDS transmission. Illinois is partnering with colleges and universities, like the University of Illinois, to provide testing and identify and train BASUAH ambassadors as peer educators to encourage testing. Working through organizations such as campus health groups, fraternities and sororities, and African-American student organizations, efforts are being made to increase awareness and decrease rates of new infections.

“It is critical we reach the youth community with prevention messages and the importance of getting tested, especially since the majority of HIV infections among African Americans are people under the age of 40,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Our hope is that today’s youth can prevent themselves from being a statistic.”

Some of the components of Gov. Blagojevich’s BASUAH initiative include:

• Implementing statewide rapid HIV/AIDS testing
On September 14, 2005, the State filed emergency rules to implement HIV/AIDS rapid testing statewide. The State (through the Illinois Department of Public Health) adopted these rules on February 3, 2006, which made it possible for a person to get preliminary positive results from a rapid HIV test. (Previously a person had to wait weeks before receiving their results.

• Partnering with predominantly African American colleges and universities to provide on-campus rapid HIV/AIDS testing and to establish peer networks to encourage testing
HIV/AIDS testing is a critical component of any program to decrease the spread of HIV/AIDS. African American college students are at particular risk for risky behaviors for HIV/AIDS transmission. The State partners with these colleges and universities to provide testing and establish peer networks that will encourage testing. Working through organizations such as campus AIDS groups, fraternities and sororities, and African American student organizations, helps increase awareness and encourage prevention and testing.

• Partnering with African American churches and their youth ministries to establish peer networks and encourage testing
Understanding that the African-American churches are, in most cases, the focal point of the community, the State is partnering with faith-based congregations to identify and train youth as BASUAH ambassadors. These individuals are trained by the Red Cross as peer educators to provide HIV prevention messages to other young adults, not only in their congregation, but also throughout the community. Young adults are encouraged to know and understand the threat of HIV to themselves and others, be able to identify and change risky behavior, and encourage others to know their status by being tested.

• Perinatal HIV rapid testing and reporting past results
More than 5,300 labor/delivery and nursery nurses have been trained to provide rapid HIV testing and counseling. Training for the 60 non-birthing hospitals began in June 2006 and will continue through 2006. One hundred percent of all Illinois birthing hospitals have now implemented rapid testing and treatment. In 2005, almost 97 percent, or 134,372, mother/newborn pairs participated in rapid HIV testing at Illinois birthing hospitals and their results have been reported. Among the 26 HIV positive women identified through rapid testing during labor and delivery (August 2004 – December 2005), four infants have been confirmed positive. Of those four infants, two were infected with HIV in-utero prior to labor and delivery.

• Establishing the first-ever African American faith based conference to address eliminating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community
The State will convene hundreds of leaders from the African American faith-based community to develop a strategic plan to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic in the African American community. The strategic plan will identify obstacles that the faith-based community faces in providing a network for delivery of HIV/AIDS prevention messages and formulate solutions. Congregations that have provided leadership in this area will display and discuss “best practice models.”

• Wellness on Wheels Van
Wellness on Wheels, a multi-disciplinary mobile unit brings a variety of health screenings, to include HIV testing, to an eight-county underserved area of Illinois that lacks medical resources. This is an expansion of the highly successful Wellness on Wheels van currently serving the Champaign area bringing HIV and STD testing to residents of public housing complexes, shelters and the homeless.

• The South African Twinning Partnership
The Illinois Department of Public Health in collaboration with the National Association of State and Territorial AIDS Directors, and South African Partner, Inc., has launched a sister-state project with Northern Cape Province in South Africa. Activities include direct one-on-one technical assistance with the AIDS directors. The partnership consists of a mutually beneficial knowledge exchange between Illinois and our South African partners on how to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. In January of 2006, Gov. Blagojevich sent the HIV/AIDS Section Chief, Dr. Andre Rawls, to Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South Africa as the first of the sister-state exchange between the Northern Cape Province and the State of Illinois. The National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors sponsored the 10-day trip, in conjunction with a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant extended to South African Partners. The second portion of the exchange took place in April 2006 when health department officials from the Northern Cape Province visited Illinois.

For more information on HIV/AIDS visit www.basuah.org or call the Illinois HIV/AIDS and STD hotline at 1-800-243-2437 during the following hours: M-F 9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m. Weekends 11:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.

On February 7, 2007, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, several events will be held across the state. The events are due in large part to the funding provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) to the host agencies. A list of IDPH funded events accompanies this release.


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