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August 19, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich signs legislation to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS among African-Americans
Law gives citizens more options for testing and information

SPRINGFIELD – To aid in the fight against the HIV/AIDS epidemic that’s hitting the African-American community particularly hard in Illinois and across the nation, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today signed legislation offering African Americans more access to testing and information about the disease.  While 15 percent of the state’s population is African American, African Americans make up more than half of all new HIV/AIDS cases in Illinois.   
“Young men and women in the African American community are being infected at an alarming rate. We must act now and do all that we can to stop the spread of this disease,” said Gov. Blagojevich.  “This legislation will help the fight against HIV/AIDS by making more testing locations available and making sure that everyone knows how to avoid this deadly disease.”
House Bill 2578, sponsored by Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), creates the African-American HIV/AIDS Response Act.  The law requires the Office of the Governor, and the Departments of Public Health (IDPH), Corrections (DOC) and Human Services (DHS) to each designate an African-American HIV/AIDS Response Officer responsible for coordinating efforts to address the African-American HIV/AIDS crisis within his or her respective Office or Department.   The law also requires that space be provided for additional testing and counseling sites using state agency facilities that are considered high traffic and accessible to the public. The testing will be performed by a community-based organization in high-risk communities.
“We are in a crisis situation with regards to the spread of HIV in the African-American community,” said Rep. Howard.  “We need to act in an aggressive way to stop young black men and women from being infected. Offering free testing at additional sites and counseling opportunities in communities of color will undoubtedly allow more individuals the opportunity to get tested and educated about prevention.”
“The African-American community is being devastated by the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Dedicating a staff member to address HIV/AIDS in the African-American community with an emphasis on the increase in black women within several state agencies is a giant step in the right direction and demonstrates how committed this administration is to the fight against HIV,” said Sen. Lightford.  “Knowledge and education are important to fighting the battle with HIV.”
HB 2578 also requires the Illinois Department of Public Health to provide HIV/AIDS educational materials on their Web site that are targeted to people presently or previously committed to the Department of Corrections or confined in a county jail, as well as family and friends of these individuals.  Under this law, the Illinois HIV/AIDS Policy and Research Institute at Chicago State University will conduct a study to determine whether there is a correlation between incarceration and HIV infection.
Let’s Talk, Let’s Test is a nonprofit organization that is committed to raising HIV/AIDS awareness and encourages individuals to know their HIV status.  The organization supports HIV/AIDS service providers and has coordinated a forum to discuss this legislation.
“Given the urgency in the African-American community to address the HIV/AIDS epidemic, I am encouraged by the progressive action by the Governor and lawmakers to openly and honestly address this problem,” said Lloyd Kelly, director, Let’s Talk, Let’s Test.
The legislation also calls for establishing the HIV/AIDS Response Review Panel within the Office of the Governor, which will be comprised of representatives from the DOC, DHS, and IDPH.  The panel will be chaired by a member appointed by the Governor and will also include two former offenders, and representatives from HIV/AIDS organizations.  The Panel will provide an annual report to the General Assembly and the Governor’s Office reviewing the implementation of the Act.
In addition, the bill requires DOC to offer all incarcerated individuals confidential HIV testing and related services for those who test positive – many of which are currently provided by DOC. County jails are also required to provide incarcerated individuals with information about HIV and confidential testing.
The law becomes effective January 1, 2006.
Gov. Blagojevich has addressed the issue of HIV/AIDS within the African-American community in the following ways:
·        Added $3 million in HIV prevention funds specifically targeting minority communities to combat the rapid growth of HIV in African-American and Hispanic populations.
·        Boosted funding by $3 million dollars to the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) during a time of budget constraints to sustain the growth and expansion of the ADAP program. While other states are creating waiting lists for a similar service, and capping enrollment, Illinois continues to offer more life-prolonging medicines that also improve the quality of life.
·        Allocated funds for peer education HIV prevention programs in Illinois adult and juvenile correctional facilities to ensure continued HIV prevention education services to incarcerated individuals in order to decrease the continued spread of HIV.
  • Signed landmark HIV prevention legislation allowing adults at least 18 years of age to purchase and possess up to 20 syringes from a pharmacy without a prescription.  Those purchasing syringes are provided with Department-approved drug treatment and prevention education materials.  National research has found that by allowing the legal purchase of syringes less people are sharing needles, one of the riskiest behaviors for becoming infected with HIV.
·        Funded the Champaign Urbana Public Health District Division’s “Wellness on Wheels” program.  The mobile van travels into poverty stricken neighborhoods and provides free HIV testing and counseling to high-risk communities, low-income and homeless populations.
·        Launched HIV/AIDS: Communities of Color Initiative to provide outreach and education programs throughout the state, as well as links to local health departments and community-based organizations for testing and treatment. An ongoing social marketing campaign -- “Know Your Status-Get Tested” -- was featured in newspapers throughout the state and this month it will be heard on radio stations statewide.
For more information on HIV/AIDS visit www.idph.state.il.us or call the Illinois HIV/AIDS and STD Hotline 1-800-243-2437.


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