Press Release

February 2, 2006


URBANA, Ill. – Sponsored by the University of Illinois African American Cultural Center, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker was today’s main speaker at the University of Illinois’ monthly “Lunch and Learn” program where he talked about Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich’s new HIV/AIDS awareness campaign called BASUAH (Brothers And Sisters United Against HIV/AIDS). 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. Accompanying Dr. Whitaker was the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) Wellness on Wheels van where the Champaign-Urbana Public Health District Division of Infectious Disease Prevention and Management offered free HIV and STD screenings.

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. African-American college students are at particular risk because of risky behaviors for HIV/AIDS transmission. Illinois is partnering with colleges and universities, like the University of Illinois, 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.

“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.”

Other components of BASUAH include the following:

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 (IDPH) is partnering with faith-based congregations to identify and train youth as BASUAH ambassadors. These individuals will 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 September 14, 2005, the State filed emergency rules to implement HIV/AIDS rapid testing statewide. The Illinois Department of Public Health is scheduled to adopt those rules during the first week in February.

Perinatal HIV rapid testing, and reporting past results

More than 5,300 labor/delivery and nursery nurses have been trained to provide rapid HIV testing and counseling. Training for the 60 non-birthing hospitals began in June and will continue through 2006. 100% of all Illinois birthing hospitals have now implemented rapid testing and treatment. In 2005, almost 97%, or 134,372, mother/newborns pairs participated in rapid HIV testing at Illinois birthing hospitals and their results have been reported. Among the 26 HIV positive women identified through rapid testing during labor and delivery (August 2004 – December 2005), four infants have been confirmed positive. Of those four infants, two were infected with HIV in-utero prior to labor and delivery.

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 on March 10, 2006, in Chicago at the Apostolic Church of God. 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. 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. On Monday, January 30th, 2006, 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 are sponsoring 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 will take place in late spring when Health Department officials from the Northern Cape Province will visit Illinois.

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.

One February 7, 2006 the Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, BASUAH celebration in Chicago will be simulcast to the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana and Springfield.

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