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September 15, 2005

Gov. Blagojevich announces new HIV/AIDS awareness effort targeting African Americans

Campaign increases spending ten-fold to focus on population with largest increase in HIV cases; files emergency rules for statewide rapid HIV testing; establishes partnerships with media, churches and colleges

More than half of 2004 reported HIV cases were African American; Over 70 percent of African American women and over 60 percent of African American men were under the age of 40

Illinois third state to join South Africa Partnership to gain more information about how to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS among hard to reach populations 

CHICAGO– In order to address alarming trends that show HIV/AIDS disproportionately impacting African Americans, Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced an expanded social marketing effort designed to reach the African-American community with education, prevention and testing.

The campaign is called BASUAH – (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS)- A Governor Blagojevich initiative to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS. Numerous media outlets statewide have agreed to partner with the State of Illinois to boost this effort geared toward the African-American community. The state will increase funding efforts ten-fold to $2.5 million, build media partnerships and form key partnerships with churches, colleges and South Africa to address this public health crisis.

“The African-American community is being impacted by the spread of HIV/AIDS at an alarming rate. It is particularly troubling that young people are being infected at overwhelming numbers. Over the last several years, the state has invested funding and resources to help fight the spread of HIV and AIDS, but we must redouble efforts and 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 Gov. Blagojevich.

“The number of African Americans that continue to be affected by this terrible disease is quite sobering,” said Dr. Whitaker. “We have committed additional funding and resources to deal with this ongoing problem and we will take other aggressive steps to reduce HIV among blacks.”

In 2004, the number of reported AIDS cases declined by four percent compared to the previous year. African Americans accounted for 54 percent of the cases (772), whites 27 percent (383) and Hispanics 17 percent (241).

But, while AIDS cases declined, the number of HIV cases grew. In 2004, a total of 2,662 persons reported HIV infection in Illinois, an increase of nearly 16 percent over the previous year. African Americans accounted for more than half the reported cases with 1,406 (52.8%), although they represent just 15 percent of the state’s population. Whites consisted of 26 percent of the reported cases and Hispanics made up 15 percent.

Of those reported cases among African Americans, 66 percent were male and 34 percent were females. Among all female reported cases of HIV, nearly 70 percent were African Americans. Among males reported with HIV in 2004, 46 percent were African American. Nearly 72 percent of African-American females and 64 percent of African-American males, with HIV infection reported in 2004, were under 40 years of age.  

Gov. Blagojevich announced the details of the BASUAH Project in Chicago today with Dr. Whitaker. Members of the African-American media representing television, radio and print participated in the event to kick-off this campaign targeting the African-American community in Illinois.

The campaign targeting African Americans, includes public service announcements to air on radio stations throughout the state and print PSA’s will appear in newspapers statewide. Posters, transit ads, printed materials, and events will feature the campaign’s slogan, website and Illinois’ HIV/AIDS hotline for testing sites and prevention information.

Some of the Chicago media partners include: The Chicago Defender, Clear Channel Radio Group, FOX 32, NBC 5, ABC 7, WGN-TV, CBS 2,WGCI-FM and V103.

“Clear Channel’s WGCI-FM, WVAZ-FM and WGRB-AM are proud to join forces with Governor Rod R. Blagojevich and the State of Illinois on the BASAUH Project (Brothers and Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS). We are committed to using our air waves to create a better awareness of this health crisis and provide the necessary information to our community for the prevention of this deadly disease,” said Angela T. Ingram, Clear Channel Radio, Station Manager.

Dr. Whitaker said the new $2.5 million social marketing push will build on efforts that began this fiscal year with a $250,000 appropriation and include radio, print and transit advertisements and working with faith-based institutions. The Department will publish an advertisement monthly in the Defender, the state’s primary African American newspaper. The advertisement will be featured in the newspaper’s new health supplement, The Temple, and Dr. Whitaker will write a monthly column on health directed toward African Americans.

Additional components included in The BASUAH Project include the following:
You can find all the information you need about HIV/AIDS on The Web site provides statistics, information about places to get tested statewide, upcoming BASUAH related events and much more.

Partnering with predominately 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 because of risky behaviors for HIV/AIDS transmission. Illinois plans to partner with predominately African-American colleges and universities (e.g. Chicago State University, Northeastern Illinois University and select City Colleges of Chicago) to provide testing and identify and train BASUAH ambassadors as peer educators to encourage testing. Working through organizations such as campus AIDS groups, fraternities and sororities, and African-American student organizations, efforts will be 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 the African-American churches are, in most cases, the focal point of the community, the Illinois Department of Public Health will partner with faith-based congregations to identify and train youth as BASUAH ambassadors. These individuals would be 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 will be 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.

Filing emergency rules to implement statewide rapid HIV/AIDS testing
On Wednesday, September 14, 2005, the State filed emergency rules to implement HIV/AIDS rapid testing statewide.

Developing perinatal HIV rapid testing, and reporting past results
Through June 30, 2005, there have been over 5,100 women that have received counseling and testing statewide. Over 5,000 labor and delivery staff throughout the 10 perinatal networks in the state were trained to implement rapid testing and counseling as defined by the Illinois Perinatal Prevention Act. Trained staff included Labor and Delivery nurses, laboratory, phlebotomy, physicians, Perinatal Network Administrators etc. The trainings included information regarding: rapid testing, counseling and consenting, documentation, and referral for all preliminary HIV positive women and infants. Twenty-four HIV positive pregnant women are currently receiving intensive case management service. Those services include transportation to medical appointments, securing necessary entitlements, and instructions regarding safe sex during pregnancy, medication and dietary adherence and compliance. A total of 15 HIV positive women who received case management services through this program have given birth, and to date none of the infants have developed HIV.

Establish the first-ever African-American faith-based statewide conference to address eliminating the spread of HIV/AIDS in the African American community
The Illinois Department of Public Health will convene hundreds of 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 mobile health unit will bring a variety of health screenings, including HIV testing, to underserved areas in eight counties that lack medical resources. This is an expansion of the highly successful Wellness on Wheels van currently serving the Champaign and Decatur areas, bringing HIV and STD testing to residents of public housing complexes, shelters, and the homeless.

Launching 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. will launch a sister-state project with Northern Cape Province in South Africa. The activities will include direct one-on-one technical assistance with the AIDS directors. The partnership will consist of a mutually beneficial knowledge exchange between Illinois and our South African partners on how to address the HIV/AIDS crisis. The specific details will be determined by the unique needs and desires of the partners.

Programs targeting communities of color, which include African Americans, Hispanics and Asians, are a top priority of the state’s HIV/AIDS prevention efforts. In the current fiscal year, 77 percent of the state’s $8.5 million in prevention program funding is directed towards programs dealing with people of color, including about 60 percent that target African Americans. Nearly $3.2 million was added to the state budget this year by Gov. Blagojevich to enhance HIV prevention efforts in minority communities.

In addition to the social marketing campaign, the Illinois Department of Public Health allotted $250,000 this year to help fund the HIV/AIDS Policy and Research Institute at Chicago State University. The institute, which Gov. Blagojevich helped implement with a $350,000 grant in fiscal year 2004, is conducting research on why the African-American population is so disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS and ways to effect behavioral change.

Dr. Whitaker said the AIDS and HIV trends in Illinois are similar to the numbers seen around the country. AIDS numbers are declining due to better medical therapies that can hold off the progression from HIV to AIDS for years. HIV numbers are rising because people continue to engage in behaviors that place them at risk of HIV infection – multiple sex partners, not using a condom and sharing needles to inject drugs.

The Governor boosted spending this fiscal year for the AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) by $3 million to a total of $36 million to allow more people with HIV or AIDS who meet eligibility requirements to be served and to increase the number of life saving medicines from 74 to 80. Considered one of the best drug assistance programs in the country, ADAP provides prescriptions to 3,200 persons a month.

Among cases reported in 2004, men having sex with men remains the leading mode of transmission in Illinois. Men having sex with men accounted for 71 percent of the mode of transmission in cases of HIV diagnosed in 2004 for white males and at least 30 percent for African-American males.

Overall, among reported cases, injection drug use transmission declined from 2003 to 2004 by 12 percent. In July 2003, Gov. Blagojevich 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.

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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