Press Release

February 16, 2006


 Health and Cultural Expo includes BASUAH initiative, free haircuts, free HIV/AIDS testing, blood pressure, cholesterol and glucose screenings and Wellness on Wheels van

 ROCKFORD, Ill. – Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, state public health director, stopped at Rock Valley College today to talk about Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS) and to offer free HIV/AIDS testing, free haircuts and free blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol screenings at a health and cultural expo. The expo was sponsored by The Black Male Community Action Team, a creation of the Black Men’s Health Program of the Winnebago County Health Department and was held in connection with Black History Month.

Dr. Whitaker helped found Project Brotherhood: A Black Men’s Clinic, a weekly clinic for African American men housed in Woodlawn Adult Health Center, which is affiliated with the Cook County Bureau of Health Services. This innovative clinic provides free haircuts, much like today’s event, to entice men to visit. The clinic grew out of the fact that African American men die prematurely from preventable diseases like HIV/AIDS.

“Growing up on the Southside of Chicago I saw that many African Americans didn’t live long enough to collect social security. Many died of diseases they could have prevented, like diabetes and heart disease, because they couldn’t afford or didn’t want to go to a doctor or clinic to get tested,” said Dr. Whitaker. “Today you have no excuse not to be tested. We’ve brought the Wellness on Wheels van right into your community where you can be tested for free as part of the BASUAH initiative. And, if you’re a man, you get a free haircut just for being tested.”

BASUAH focuses on education, prevention and testing, targeting African Americans because of the number of HIV cases reported within that community in Illinois. In 2004, African Americans made up more than half of the newly reported HIV cases in the state 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. “Our hope is that today’s youth are reminded that HIV is not going away and they can prevent themselves from being a statistic.”

One element of BASUAH includes partnering with 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. Illinois is partnering with colleges and universities to provide testing and identify and train BASUAH ambassadors as peer educators to encourage testing. Working through organizations such as campus health groups, fraternities and sororities, and African-American student organizations, efforts are being made to increase awareness and decrease rates of new infections.

Other components of BASUAH include the following:

  • Partnering with African-American churches and their youth ministries to establish peer networks and encourage testing.
  • Implementing new rules for statewide rapid HIV/AIDS testing.
  • Perinatal HIV rapid testing, and reporting past results.
  • South African Twinning Partnership with Northern Cape Province.
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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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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