SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich’s groundbreaking BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) Campaign will celebrate its third anniversary at Gospel Fest ‘08 this evening in Springfield, which will include free HIV testing. Helping Illinois Department of Public Health Director (IDPH) Dr. Damon T. Arnold educate the public about HIV/AIDS and the need for testing will be National Baptist Convention of America President Reverend Stephen Thurston and gospel artists Smokie Norful and Vanessa Bell Armstrong. Governor Blagojevich created BASUAH in September 2005 to address the alarming trend showing HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacts African-Americans.
“Since we started the BASUAH Campaign three years ago, we’ve seen great successes such as national recognition for our efforts to tackle HIV/AIDS disparities among African-Americans. But the fight is not over and we will continue to do everything in our power to promote HIV/AIDS education, prevention and testing so that no more of our young people become infected with HIV,” said Governor Blagojevich.
Tonight’s BASUAH Gospel Fest ’08 will be the fourth edutainment concert, an event incorporating entertainment from nationally know artists with HIV prevention education. Previous concerts have included artists and performers such as Twista, Speed Knot Mobstaz, Kelly Rowland, Rickey Smiley, Byron Cage and Mary Mary. At last year’s concert event, approximately 5,000 people attended and 500 people were tested for HIV.
“We must be aggressive in our efforts to promote education, prevention and testing,” said Dr. Arnold. “Events like tonight’s Gospel Fest ’08 attract large numbers of African-American youth and young adults and give us the chance to provide culturally specific HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted disease prevention and education messages, as well as a chance to be tested for HIV for free. People are drawn to the event for the entertainment, but walk away with an education on HIV/AIDS.”
“As the National President of the National Baptist Convention of America which enjoys a membership of 10 million, I am urging all of my pastors and every other faith and denominational leader to urge their members to take the epidemic of HIV among African Americans seriously. We must collectively promote early and regular testing and consistent education by inserting information in our denominational newsletters and our weekly religious bulletins,” said Rev. Thurston.
Illinois is following the same trend as the rest of the nation for HIV/AIDS cases. In 2007, 46 percent (858) of all HIV reported cases in Illinois (1,858) were African-American; 71 percent (606) of which were men. Of the 606 African-American men reporting HIV in 2007, 50 percent (305) reporting having had sex with men. MSM was the highest mode of transmission representing 50 percent (920) of all reported HIV cases in 2007.
People of color are disproportionately affected by the disease. In 2005, African-Americans, who make up approximately 13 percent of the U.S. population, accounted for almost half of the estimated number of HIV/AIDS cases diagnosed. AIDS is now the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25 to 34.
Other ways the Governor’s BASUAH Campaign is educating communities about HIV/AIDS include an online training program in which more than 2,000 students have registered since spring 2007; BASUAH in Second Life, an Internet-based virtual world that creates an atmosphere for an open discussion of HIV/AIDS; and a monthly electronic newsletter – “Focus on BASUAH.” Another major component of BASUAH is the Wellness on Wheels mobile health units that provide a variety of health screenings, including HIV testing, to underserved areas of Illinois. Through the Wellness on Wheels vehicles and BASUAH partners, approximately 14,000 HIV tests have been administered across Illinois.
Tonight’s BASUAH Gospel Fest ’08 will coincide with annual Take a Loved One for a Checkup Day, which is observed each September as a reminder to encourage people to see their doctor or make an appointment to see their doctor in the near future. The annual campaign by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also challenges African-Americans to take charge of their health care needs and turn around some of the health disparities.
For more information 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. or visit: