Time has never been on the side of those fighting against HIV and AIDS. Despite profound advances that have been made in both prevention and treatment over more than 30 years, more than 50,000 new HIV infections occur in the United States each year.
Community-based organizations fight the HIV epidemic in Illinois on a daily basis. However, as a result of an administrative error made last summer, $1.5 million that was appropriated to the African-American AIDS Response Act Fund ( AAARAF ) disappeared. The AAARAF provides resources for fighting HIV in Illinois' most vulnerable communities. This error left those in greatest need of services at even greater peril. We are outraged by this error and call upon the Illinois General Assembly and the governor to make good on their promises and uphold a law that created this fund nearly a decade ago.
According to the latest available information, African-Americans ( who represent approximately 14.7 percent of the state's population ) account for more than half of the 1,800 HIV cases diagnosed in Illinois each year. Additionally, a recent CDC report suggests that 33 percent of African-Americans between the ages of 18 and 65 years old have never been tested for HIV. But as a result of this mishap, nearly 8,000 units of HIV prevention service will not be provided to African-Americans in Illinois this fiscal year because 14 organizations will not receive the funding they were awarded from the AAARAF.
For some of these organizations, funding from the African-American AIDS Response Act was their largest source of income. As a result of not receiving funds this fiscal year, many of them have had to lay off well-trained staff, cut back on HIV prevention services or, worse, close their doors in communities that are already under-resourced.
We are mindful of Illinois' precarious financial position and the elevated competition for scarce resources brought on by Governor Rauner's proposed $6.6 billion in budget cuts for FY 2016, including a 25 percent cut to HIV prevention and care services, $1.5 billion in Medicaid cuts, and a reduction in funding for the AAARAF by 66 percent to $500,000. But Illinois must do right by the 14 organizations that successfully competed in the application process and need to get back to the business of preventing HIV and linking people to care.
We, the undersigned organizations, urge our elected state officials to replenish the AAARAF and authorize awards to the 14 organizations that were told they would be funded in FY 2015.
Every 9.5 minutes, someone becomes infected with HIV in the United States, and one in five of them will not know ( s )he is passing the infection on to others. The clock is ticking. We must act now.
Affinity Community Services, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Black Men's Xchange ( BMX ) Chicago, Brothers Health Collective, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus, Chicago Recovery
Alliance, Chicago Women's AIDS Project, Coalition for Justice and Respect, Community Health and Education, Inc., Community Wellness Project, East Side Health District, Making A Daily Effort ( M.A.D.E. ), Men and Women in Prison
Ministries, Proactive Community Services, Project VIDA, Sinai Health System, South Suburban HIV/AIDS Regional Clinics, Southside Help Center, Taskforce Prevention and Community Services, Westside HIV/AIDS Regional Planning Council and Writers Planners Trainers Inc.