June 23, 2007
State public health director helps kick-off National HIV Testing Day events in Illinois at Test Fest 2007
Whitaker cautions groups most at-risk for HIV infection - African-American men who have sex with men and African-American women
CHICAGO, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, spoke to crowds today at Test Fest 2007 in Chicago, an event organized to kick-off National HIV Testing Day. Whitaker’s message highlighted the risks of HIV/AIDS, especially in African-American men who have sex with men (MSM), and African-American women, the two populations at highest risk for new HIV infections according to the latest statistics. National HIV Testing Day is an annual campaign sponsored by the National Association of People with AIDS to encourage voluntary HIV counseling and testing.
“Awareness, education, reducing stigmas and testing are essential to combating HIV/AIDS, especially in high risk populations,” said Dr. Whitaker. “People need to be aware of HIV/AIDS in their community, learn about how the disease is transmitted and what risky behaviors to avoid. We also need to eliminate the stigma surrounding those infected with HIV. Men who have sex with men and illicit drug users are two populations often associated with having HIV – creating a stigma that can prevent people from getting tested. The bottom line - people need to be tested and need to know their status.”
A National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors’ (NASTAD) Call to Action on HIV/AIDS in the African American Community conducted a study of African-American MSM in five urban areas ( Baltimore, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City and San Francisco). The results showed that of African-American MSM who were tested for HIV, 46 percent were HIV-positive, and approximately two-thirds (67 percent) of African-American MSM did not know their status.
It is believed HIV infection rates among African-American MSM rival those found in many sub- Saharan African countries according to NASTAD. In the same study, African-American women in the U.S. were diagnosed with HIV/AIDS at a rate 21 times that of white women.
Illinois is following the same trend as the rest of the nation. In 2006, almost 53 percent (1,208) of all HIV reported cases in Illinois (2,419) were African-American men who have sex with men. MSM was the highest mode of transmission representing 56 percent (978) of reported HIV cases in 2006.
Reported HIV cases for 2006 in Illinois increased by 52 cases from the previous year (2,367). (Numbers are provisional and may change.) Almost 30 percent (799) of reported HIV cases in Illinois for 2006 were white, non-Hispanic and almost 16 percent (288) were Hispanic. Men accounted for 81 percent (1,860) of all reported HIV cases in Illinois for 2006 while women accounted for 19 percent (559). A majority of the cases, 87 percent (1,582) were reported in the Chicago Metropolitan area, which includes Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry and Will Counties, while the remaining 13 percent (517) were reported downstate. Men who have sex with men followed by intravenous drug use were the leading causes of reported HIV infections among men in Illinois. Women reported high risk heterosexual contact followed by intravenous drug use as the leading causes of reported HIV infections for 2006.
In an effort to eliminate the disparity in the number of African Americans infected with HIV/AIDS, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich launched the BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) campaign in September 2005. BASUAH focuses on education, prevention and testing and targets African Americans by specifically funding interventions that are designed to decrease new infections.
One component of BASUAH is the Wellness on Wheels mobile health vans which travel to communities across Illinois and offer HIV testing. Visitors to the wellness van can receive health screenings including HIV, Hepatitis B and C, breast and cervical cancer screenings and blood pressure and cholesterol tests. People visiting the van can receive their HIV test results within half an hour with the use of HIV/AIDS rapid testing for which the State adopted rules on February 3, 2006.
In another component of the BASUAH campaign, the State has worked with African American churches and their youth ministries to establish peer networks that encourage HIV testing.
Programs targeting communities of color, which include African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, are a top priority of the state’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts.
The AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) allows those who qualify access to life sustaining medicines. On average, ADAP spends $12,200 per year to provide HIV drugs for each client. An estimated 195 ADAP clients, with an annual income between $13,000 to $19,000, are eligible for both ADAP and Medicare, but cannot afford Medicare’s steep out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.
For more information 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. or visit www.basuah.org or www.idph.state.il.us.
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) is assisting in the following National HIV Testing Day activities. (All events are sponsored by IDPH.)
On Thursdays and Saturdays during the Month of June
June 23, 2007
TEST FEST 2007
June 26, 2007
June 27, 2007
Southeast Alcohol and Drug Abuse Center
Springfield Urban League
Citgo Gas Station
South Side Help Center
Fairview Community Center
AIDS Project Quad Cities
Shop City Plaza
Main Street Church of the Living God
June 28, 2007
Sunset Heights Apartments
June 29, 2007
Save-A-Lot Grocery Store
of Public Health
535 West Jefferson Street
Springfield, Illinois 62761
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