More than 25 people protested in front of City Hall Oct. 15 in response to the Mayor's failure to increase the city's AIDS budget by $1 million. Mayor Richard Daley instead asked for just $100,000 more in the 2004 city budget. The mayor proposed a total of $3.7 million for HIV prevention programs, which is less than the city spent on HIV prevention in 1997, reports the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which is spearheading the pressure for additional funds. From 1997 to 2003, AIDS cases have increased 32% while city funding for prevention dropped 8%.
'Without a greater commitment to HIV prevention, Chicago's HIV/AIDS crisis will only worsen,' said Mark Ishaug, AIDS Foundation of Chicago's executive director.
AIDS advocates said the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases warrants increased attention to prevention. The city's reported number of AIDS cases has increased 32%from 15,441 to 20,480-since 1997. For the first time, reported AIDS in Chicago exceeded the 20,000 mark. More than 11,000 people in Chicago have died of AIDS, and an estimated 22,000 are currently living with HIV/AIDS.
AFC reports that people of color, who account for approximately 69% of the Chicago population, represent 81% of recently diagnosed adult AIDS cases and 77% of recently diagnosed HIV cases. African Americans alone account for 65% of recently diagnosed adult AIDS cases and 61% of recently diagnosed adult HIV cases. Male-to-male sexual contact is still the No. 1 mode of transmission.
Greg Harris, chief of staff for Ald. Mary Ann Smith, said AFC is doing all the right things in trying to achieve the $1 million goal. He said Mayor Daley has put this squarely in the hands of the City Council.
Ten aldermen said they will sponsor a budget amendment to increase the 2004 appropriation for HIV prevention by $1 million, AFC said. This summer, 28 of Chicago's 50 aldermen signed a letter to Mayor Daley, asking him to increase city funding for HIV prevention by $1 million.
AFC sponsors another picket at City Hall Wed., Oct. 29, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wear red or black clothing. Contact Amy LaMantia at ( 312 ) 922-2322. AFC is asking people to testify at budget hearings Wed., Nov. 5, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., City Council, 121 N. LaSalle, contact Brent Adams at ( 312 ) 922-2322 or at firstname.lastname@example.org .
For news about the recent meningitis outbreak in the city's gay male community, see Windy City Times' Oct. 22 edition.