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January 30, 2006

Gov. Blagojevich sends BASUAH representative on South African HIV/AIDS Sister State mission to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in African and African- American communities in Illinois and around the world

Trip launches first Sister State exchange for Illinois and Northern Cape Province; delegates to bring information back to Illinois on effective ways to reach under-served communities

CHICAGO –Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today sent the Illinois Department of Public Health’s HIV/AIDS Section Chief, Dr. Andre Rawls, to Kimberley, Northern Cape Province, South Africa, on the first sister state exchange between the Northern Cape Province and the State of Illinois to help fight the spread of HIV/AIDS in African and African-American communities in Illinois and around the world. The 10-day trip, sponsored by the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors in conjunction with a Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) grant extended to South African Partners, will give delegates information on culturally-specific and effective ways to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS urban and rural communities. The second portion of the exchange will take place in late spring, when the Health Department officials from the Northern Cape Province will visit Illinois. The sister states exchange is part of the Governor’s BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) Project that was announced in September.

“The increasing numbers of HIV/AIDS cases in minority communities, particularly the African and African-American communities, is alarming,” said Governor Blagojevich. “By working together through a partnership between BASUAH and the Northern Cape Province, we can find even more ways to strengthen awareness efforts and provide services to those who need them.”

Dr. Rawls and the other exchange attendees will explore ways to strengthen programs and activities in both urban and rural areas. The delegates will also provide assistance in the Northern Cape by creating an AIDS Foundation and will examine care and treatment throughout the territory.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for the State to be involved in this Pandemic at the international level,” said Dr. Rawls. “We all stand to benefit from the exchange of information. I am very pleased that the Governor supported this undertaking.”

Activities during this trip will include visiting health care centers, hospitals, hospices, and centers that house the disabled in several cities in the Northern Cape Province. Through these visits, the delegates will bring information back to Illinois regarding more effective and efficient methods to reach under-served rural and urban areas. The delegates will also gain study culturally specific health initiatives for African and African-American communities in Illinois.

“Education is vital when it comes to fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director. “The more methods and awareness that we can create and learn about will help us in our fight to diminish the soaring HIV/AIDS numbers in African-American communities.”

In Illinois, African Americans are impacted by HIV/AIDS more than any other group. Though African Americans only make up 15 percent of the population, in 2004 they comprised more than half of the reported HIV cases. Among all women who reported HIV infection last year, 70 percent were African American, and among all men, 46 percent were African American. What used to be known as a gay, white man’s disease has now spread into the African American community at an alarming rate. In response, the Governor committed $2.5 million to bolster awareness, education, and provide more rapid HIV testing statewide.

The BASUAH project includes public service announcements, posters, transit ads, printed materials, and partnerships with media outlets, churches and their youth ministries, colleges and organizations.

For more information on HIV/AIDS visit or call the Illinois HIV/AIDS and STD hotline 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.



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