Share this: FacebooktwittermailFacebooktwittermail

The Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity (BLACHE) applauds Governor J.B. Pritzker for signing into law a 2024 Illinois fiscal year budget that includes more than $8.5M in new direct funding to African American-led HIV/AIDS Community Based Service Providers.

Black legislators worked persistently throughout the entire 2023 session to elevate awareness of and address the funding inequity of AA-led CBOs that has existed for decades and has been limiting the State from “Getting to Zero” and being responsive to Ending the HIV Epidemic (EHE) in the Black community.  Ultimately, approximately 15 AA-led HIV/AIDS service providers, including CBOs and FQHC’s  – most of which have never been directly funded from the state’s General Fund, are now directly funded for operating expenses, giving them the ability to adeptly build towards their organization’s mission relative to negating the spread of HIV-AIDS amongst marginalized African-American residents in Illinois, while facing challenges in back-office capacity, the need for improved technological infrastructure, stabilization of services, and other areas of insufficiency which existed due to cultural inequities before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, and are more evidently impacted today.

Every member of the Illinois House and Senate Black Caucus pushed inclusion of direct funding to African American-led HIV/AIDS service-related organizations as a strategy to address the alarming inequities in the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS among Black people in Illinois. Black legislative leaders (all Democrats) who lead the way include: State Representative Carol Ammons, Joint Chairwoman, ILCBC; State Representative Lakesia Collins, ILCBC Chair; State Representative Lashawn K. Ford; State Representative Justin Slaughter; State Senator Mike Simmons; State Representative Camille Y. Lilly; State Representative Kam Buckner; State Representative Mary Flowers; State Representative Debbie Myers-Martin, Budgeteer State Representative Jehan Gordon-Booth (the first woman, and first African American lawmaker to run budget negotiations for the House);  House Speaker Emanuel “Chris” Welch,  and Senate Majority Leader Kimberly A. Lightford, while many others also labored to push the funding through.

“We appreciate the advocates of BLACHE for being the voice of the community and trusting us to do the work. We have a lot more to do,” said Representative Lakesia Collins, ILCBC Chair.

Black legislators greeted members of BLACHE and declared February 7, 2023, as Black HIV/AIDS Advocacy Day earlier this year. BLACHE has diligently worked to engage the Illinois Department of Public Health, Chicago Department of Public Health, and AIDS Foundation of Chicago relative to systemic barriers which have resulted in their funding inequity to AA-led HIV/AIDS service providers and promoting awareness of the inequitable impact of HIV/AIDS on African Americans across the state.   Due to the advocacy of BLACHE and engagement with former IDPH Director, Dr. Ngozi Ezike, corrective changes were recently implemented in administration of the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Act (AAHARA), which despite the law, IDPH restricted providing testing and prevention education to limited demographics for more than 13 years.  During the 2021 legislative session, AAHARA was allocated $15M from Illinois Emergency COVID Response Funding which will end on December 31, 2024, while much of it continues to be “bottle-necked” due to late contract issuance by IDPH and other continual systemic barriers. There is $1.2M currently allocated to AAHARA from IDPH, and $2.78M in additional funding is included in the 2024 budget, which would bring the new total to only $4.78M.  Direct funding to AA-led HIV/AIDS service providers is a crucial in getting much needed resources and services to agencies, and ultimately people in the Black community.

Unfortunately, there were no African American-led HIV/AIDS service-related CBOs in St. Claire County, directly funded in the 2024 legislative budget, though historically IDPH Surveillance reports indicate the region has the second highest incidence of new HIV/AIDS diagnoses among non-Hispanic Black people in Illinois.

The following statistics give a clearer picture of the inequity of HIV/AIDS in Illinois:

-African Americans comprise only 14.2% of Illinois residents

-African Americans comprise 48% of Existing HIV diagnoses and 52.1% of new HIV diagnoses

-AAHARA was allocated $0 from Illinois general fund

-funding for African American-led CBOS “bottle-necked” in IDPH administration, leading to reduced funding being issued for programs and services

-White-led CBOs awarded more than 95% of IDPH HIV/AIDS Funding/Grants

-White-led Lead Grantees sub-granting AA-led CBOs less than 10% of its funding while receiving nearly 2x’s the amount in administrative fees

-The minority AIDS Initiative, previously under Illinois Center for Minority Health Services, is now being administered by a White-led funder.

Though the 2024 Illinois budget reflects a huge leap forward towards funding equity for AA-led HIV/AIDS-related service provider in Illinois, BLACHE will continue to push forward in its efforts to dismantle systemic racial barriers in government, foundation, corporate and other funding.  The leadership of the ILCBC is profoundly appreciated and will be integral to future efforts.

BLACHE affiliates include:

*Ariq Cabbler, Executive Director, Alliance Care 360

*Vanessa Smith, Executive Director, South Side Help Center

*Yaa Simpson, President, The Association of Clinical Trials (TACTS)

*Marvinetta Penn, Executive Director, Global Girls, Inc.

*Eula L. Burge, CEO, Executive Director, Proactive Community Services

*Vance White, President, School of Opulence

*Lorraine Broyls, Ph.D., Founder/CEO, and Jeffrey Jones, Chief Program Officer, Universal Family Connections

*Kimberly Wallace-Hutson, COO and Rev. Doris Green, Founder, Transforming ReEntry Services

*Samantha Mitchell, COO, TCA Health, Inc.

*Zahara Bassett, CEO, Life is Work

*Chris Wade, Founder, CWade & Associates, LLC

*Creola Kizart-Hampton, Chair, BLACHE

*Dana Williams, Vice Chair, BLACHE and Executive Director, Community Wellness Project

*Christopher Balthazar, Treasurer, BLACHE and Executive Director, *Taskforce Prevention & Community Services

*Jerome Montgomery, Secretary, BLACHE and Executive Director, Project VIDA