Press Release

October 23, 2006


State public health director unveils book of poems, artwork by Illinois college students to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS

Illinois Department of Public Health debuts the book as part of Governor Blagojevich’s BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) Initiative 

CHICAGO, Ill. – In observance of the one year anniversary of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) Campaign, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, today unveiled a booklet entitled “Expressions of Hope: Keeping the Promise Alive.” The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) introduced the booklet during a reception at Westwood College of DuPage, in Woodridge. The book consists of poems and illustrations about HIV/AIDS, and was created by college students throughout Illinois, including fifteen students from Westwood College. The book addresses the struggles, challenges and stories of hope relating to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, as seen through the eyes of some of the state’s brightest young minds.

“Expressions of Hope: Keeping the Promise Alive” is a testament that young people are listening and learning about HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Whitaker. “It is the newest tool of Governor Blagojevich’s BASUAH campaign to teach and raise awareness. I hope that everyone who reads it will be encouraged to get tested, know their status and get their friends tested.”

BASUAH (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS), a comprehensive statewide HIV/AIDS education, outreach, and testing initiative targeting the African American community. Gov. Blagojevich launched BASUAH in September 2005 to address the alarming trend of infection among the African American community in Illinois. Statistics show in 2004 African Americans, who only account for 15-percent of the population, accounted for 54-percent of the new reported HIV/AIDS cases in the state (2,120 cases out of total of 3,933 cases in Illinois.) One year after the launch of this statewide campaign to educate, heighten awareness and encourage testing within the African-American community, statistics show a slight decrease. African Americans accounted for 50-percent of the new reported HIV/AIDS cases (1,949 cases out of 3,906.)

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.

  • 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, efforts are made to increase awareness and decrease rates of new infections.

  • Partnering with African American churches and their youth ministries to establish peer networks and encourage testing
    Understanding that 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 youth, not only in their congregation, but also throughout the community. Youth are encouraged to know and understand the threat of HIV to themselves and others, be able to identify and change risky behavior, and encourage other youth to know their status by being tested.

  • Perinatal HIV rapid testing and reporting past results
    All Illinois birthing hospitals have now implemented HIV rapid testing and treatment and more than 5,300 labor and delivery and nursery nurses have been trained. In 2005, 95 percent of Illinois’ birthing hospitals conducted rapid HIV counseling and testing and three children were confirmed HIV positive. So far in 2006, nine HIV perinatal transmissions were identified.

  • Establishing the first ever African American faith based conference to address eliminating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community
    The State is working with 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, including HIV testing, to underserved areas of Illinois that lack medical resources. This is an expansion of the highly successful Wellness on Wheels van that initially served 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 this year, Governor Rod R. 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 ten-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 last month in April when health department officials from the Northern Cape Province visited Illinois.

  • The West Africa Technical Assistance Efforts
    In July 2006, state public health director Dr. Eric E. Whitaker led a delegation to the Republic of Liberia to provide assistance for implementing a program to prevent mother to child HIV transmission. The Illinois program to prevent mother to child HIV transmission is one of the best models in the nation. This trip was the second part of an assistance effort for West Africa. Earlier this year, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich welcomed Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf during her visit in Illinois and presented her with a gift of 25,000 HIV tests for pregnant women in her AIDS ravaged country.
For more information, 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.

idph online home
idph online home

Illinois Department of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
Phone 217-782-4977
Fax 217-782-3987
TTY 800-547-0466
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