By Dave Dahl
SPRINGFIELD – Black legislators and advocates celebrated Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day Wednesday by ripping into the Illinois Department of Public Health, accusing the state of inequitable funding, even when Blacks have a disproportionate share of the cases.
The chair of the Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity led a statehouse news conference.
“We are fourteen percent of the population but 52 percent of the existing cases and 48 percent – still! Still! – of new diagnoses,” said Creola Hamilton. “The state cannot – will not – get to zero unless African-American-led organizations are given the equitable funding to address the issue.”
A Black lawmaker – and Illinois’ first openly LGBTQ state senator – points to some of the reasons for the disparity. “It’s the ongoing discrimination and mistrust of the health care system. There are so many Black people who want to be healthy but have good reason to distrust the health care system,” said State Sen. Mike Simmons (D-Chicago), “because of decades and decades and decades of broken and failed public policy.”
The Illinois Department of Public Health issued a response:
The Illinois Department of Public Health appreciates the advocacy and commitment of its community-based partners who serve historically underserved communities. IDPH has worked diligently to ensure that HIV/AIDS grant funding goes to where it is needed the most, especially to address the disparities in HIV rates and access to testing and care in communities of color.
Of the current IDPH budget for HIV/AIDS programs, $34 million is available for grantmaking. Of that amount, more than $5 million, or 17 percent, has already been allocated to BLOs. Last year, more than 70 percent of HIV/AIDS services delivered with IDPH grant funds served racial and ethnic minorities. We are proud to continue strengthening our relationship with Black-led organizations (BLO) to deliver essential services to people in great need. In the current (FY24) cycle, every BLO grant applicant was awarded funding, totaling, as noted, more than $5 million to a dozen grantees.
We also recognize more can be done and are pleased to announce the creation of a temporary special grants team to bolster the important work being done by our HIV/AIDS program. This will enhance the technical assistance provided to grantees and applicants, to help organizations navigate the grant process, and to maximize grant dollars that provide vital services. The effort is also aimed at speeding up the process for obtaining grants and reimbursements for permitted expenses. We will continue to work in strong partnership with community-based organizations to eliminate disparities and ensure that help is available to everyone who needs it.
Dave Dahl can be reached at [email protected].