Press Release

December 15 , 2005



The state’s new mobile health unit stops at Emerson Park Youth Build Center

EAST ST. LOUIS- Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director and local HIV/AIDS advocates joined forces today to combat HIV/AIDS in the African American community.

The event was part of Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS). The project focuses on education, prevention and testing and targets African Americans because of the disproportionate amount of HIV cases reported within that community. In 2004, African Americans made up more than half of the newly reported HIV cases in Illinois while they only represent 15 percent of the state’s population.

“The majority of HIV infections among African Americans are individuals under the age of 40, so it is critical to reach the youth community with prevention messages and the importance of getting tested,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Youth is the center of today’s event and our hope is that they are reminded that HIV is not going away and they can prevent themselves from being a statistic.”

The event took place at the Emerson Park-Youth Build Center where a crowd of nearly 100 at-risk youth ages 16 to 24 heard the call to action by HIV/AIDS advocates.

“We are honored to host this event because we cater to a high-risk population that needs to hear the prevention messages and the importance of knowing their status,” said Vickie Forby, executive director, Emerson Park-Youth Build Center. “Bringing the education and awareness directly to our students is key for them to take ownership of the issue and gives them easy access to a testing site, an opportunity they otherwise may not seek out.”

The Wellness on Wheels van, a mobile health unit and component of the BASUAH project provided an opportunity for the community to get tested for HIV at today’s event. The van travels throughout the state to provide a variety of health screenings including Hepatitis B and C, breast and cervical cancer screenings and blood pressure and cholesterol tests to underserved communities.

“The wellness van is a critical tool we can use to reach more people who may not be able to access a testing site, or who may be high-risk or who may not be able to afford a doctor visit,” said Dr. Whitaker. “The mobile unit brings testing, counseling and other health screenings directly into communities that need services. Making it easier to get tested will undoubtedly increase testing and increase awareness, our objectives with this initiative.”

IDPH partners with local health departments, hospitals and clinics to provide the services in a given community. IDPH provides the van and a driver and schedules the unit through the Center for Minority Health Services while the local health department, hospital or clinic provides medical staff.

If you would like more information on the Wellness on Wheels program, you may call Doris Turner in the Center for Minority Health at 217-785-4311.

On September 15 th, Governor Blagojevich announced the launch of BASUAH and his commitment to invest $2.5 million dollars in the initiative, which includes the following components:

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 ate 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.”

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.

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.

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
Questions or Comments