On Tuesday, Oct. 21, Chicago gay activist John Pennycuff was among those inducted into the city's Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame. This was a few days after Mayor Daley announced just a $100,000 increase in city AIDS funding—despite months of urging from activists seeking $1 million. As protesters handed out stickers and leaflets outside (and many people wore the stickers inside), Pennycuff diverted from the presentation for a short speech. While none of the other Hall of Fame recipients spoke, Pennycuff stepped to the mic, as Daley stood 10 feet away, and read the following speech.
The late Chicago gay and AIDS activist Danny Sotomayor, a frequent Daley critic, would have been proud of Pennycuff, who first protested, and later shook the Mayor's hand in accepting the Hall of Fame honor. Pennycuff and his partner, fellow Hall of Famer Robert Castillo, are also on the Mayor's Advisory Council on LGBT Issues.
It is a rare occasion when an activist has nothing to say. Tonight is not one of those occasions.
Last Wednesday, the Mayor released his proposed budget for 2004. It was at that time that many of us were shocked to learn that, despite intense lobbying by AIDS advocates for a $1 million increase in HIV-prevention funds, the city was proposing an increase of a mere $100,000. I'm here tonight to give you several reasons why $100,000 is not enough!!
Because, since 1997, the city's reported number of AIDS cases has increased 32%—from 15,441 to 20,480. $100,000 is not enough!
Because, for the first time, AIDS cases in Chicago have exceeded the 20,000 mark. $100,000 is not enough!
Because more than 11,000 people in Chicago have died of AIDS, and an estimated 22,000 are currently living with HIV and AIDS. $100,000 is not enough!
Because people of color, who account for approximately 69% of the city's population, represent 81% of recently diagnosed adult AIDS cases and 77% of recently diagnosed HIV cases. $100,000 is not enough!
Because African Americans alone account for 65% of recently diagnosed adult AIDS cases and 61% of recently diagnosed adult HIV cases. $100,000 is not enough!
Because, 10 [now 14] aldermen have already indicated that they will sponsor a budget amendment to increase the 2004 appropriation for HIV prevention by $1 million, they too realize that $100,000 is not enough!
Because AIDS affects all communities across Chicago, the remaining aldermen need to be contacted and told that $100,000 is not enough!
Lastly, brothers and sisters, because AIDS continues to impact our lives and because as we are all too well aware, the AIDS crisis is not over we must say out loud $100,000 is not enough!
Pennycuff is office manager for Windy City Media Group.
The following was released by AIDS Foundation of Chicago, which is spearheading efforts to increase the AIDS funding:
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. From 1997 to 2003, AIDS cases have increased 32% while city funding for HIV prevention has decreased by 8%.
AIDS advocates began picketing Oct. 15 in front of City Hall only hours after the mayor's budget address. They also plan to picket Oct. 29 during City Council's Budget Committee hearings.
Fourteen aldermen have already indicated they will sponsor a budget amendment to increase the 2004 appropriation for HIV prevention by $1 million. The amendment's current sponsors include Manuel Flores (1st Ward), Toni Preckwinkle (4th Ward), Leslie Hairston (5th Ward), Frank Olivo (13th Ward), Arenda Troutman (20th Ward), Walter Burnett, Jr. (27th Ward), Ed Smith (28th Ward), Carrie Austin (34th Ward), Rey Colón (35th Ward), Patrick O'Connor (40th Ward), Tom Tunney (44th Ward), Helen Shiller (46th Ward), Mary Ann Smith (48th Ward), and Joe Moore (49th Ward).
AIDS advocates noted that the increasing number of HIV/AIDS cases, which disproportionately affects people of color and men who have sex with men, warrants increased attention to HIV prevention.
The city's reported number of AIDS cases has increased from 15,441 to 20,480 since 1997. For the first time, reported AIDS cases 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.