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The city of Chicago has suffered from an ongoing HIV epidemic for years. In 2016 alone, 3,413 people were diagnosed with the virus in Chicago. A number that represents a 30% increase from 2015 and a nearly 80% increase since 2010. The prevalence of HIV disproportionately affects Black communities in Chicago. It has led to more than half of all new diagnoses coming from African-American men who have sex with other men.
Disproportionately Affects Black Americans
This data highlights the need for increased federal funding for HIV/AIDS programs across Illinois. However, despite this epidemic, the city’s budget — which funds prevention services such as education programs and testing — has remained stagnant over the last several years. Out of the $40 million allotted for HIV/AIDS funding, only $1.7 million is granted to Black-led organizations. So what does this mean?
While HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects Black Americans, this is not the case for funding. Black Chicagoans are:
- Less likely to receive treatment;
- More likely to be living with HIV;
- And have a higher rate of HIV/AIDS-related deaths.
Yet, they do not receive funding in proportion to their population size or prevalence. “Black people make up roughly 2 percent of Illinois’ population but received only 1 percent of $12 million awarded by the Ryan White Care Act over three fiscal years ending in 2017 — $2 million less than Latinos who represent 11 percent of Illinoisans but received 18 percent ($3 million) during that same time period,” according to an analysis conducted by The Chicago Reporter.
Black-led Organizations Seek HIV Funds
Organizations like the South Side Help Center provides an array of services from confidential counseling to case management and support groups. The group has also been active in advocating for more funding for Black residents who are impacted by the disease for over 30 years, according to its website.
In response to this and other funding disparities, community groups have called for the city to redirect its HIV/AIDS funds. They want more money to be spent on HIV prevention, treatment, and research in Black communities.
Better Results Needed
“It’s not enough to just throw money at a problem anymore,” said Craig Washington, executive director of the Chicago Urban League. “We need to think about how we can redirect funds in ways that are going to concentrate our resources on getting better results.”
The Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH) has proposed a strategic plan for HIV/AIDS services that include programs specifically targeting Black LGBTQIA+ communities. But many feel that the plan is not adequate. Saying that it does not go far enough in addressing their demands for more resources or equal access to these resources.
Dismantling Systemic Racism
Organizations like Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity (BLACHE) want to “dismantle systemic racism and barriers in public health and private foundation funding of Black-led community-based organizations.” Doing so will help ” negate the inequitable spread and impact of HIV/AIDS specifically among the Black (non-Hispanic African American) population throughout Illinois and bring it to a level relative to the State’s population of 14% African-American,” according to their website.
They want more funding from HIV/AIDS organizations and government entities alike to be allocated towards Black communities, as well as other communities of color and Black LGBTQIA+ individuals. This population is often forgotten in discussions about healthcare access among people living with HIV/AIDS.
Black Chicagoans disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS are being denied access to the resources they need to effectively fight against this epidemic. While the organization continues to make millions of dollars in profit each year. In order to help Black Chicagoans with HIV/AIDS, CDPH should use its resources to give them access to existing resources that can assist them with their healthcare needs.
BLACHE and Other Agencies Speak Out
Today the Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity went live on Facebook to speak about World AIDS Day — December 1. Creola Hampton, president and founder of BLACHE spoke first.
Tomorrow the Chicago Department of Public Health and other organizations like the AIDS Foundation of Chicago will announce the news that the rates for HIV and AIDS in Chicago are lower than they have been since 1987.
“But as much as they will be celebrating the reduction in the incidence of rates; We need to look at it through the lens of a Black Community,” she added.
The latest CDPH “HIV/STI report indicates that in 2020, African Americans (non-Hispanic) comprise of 55 percent of new diagnoses,” Hampton stated. “57 percent of new diagnoses and 48 percent of late diagnoses.” Several other agency representatives spoke about the disparities they see and how they would like them to change. All of them are concerned about the systemic racial disparities seen in Chicago and across the nation.
Be the Change
In order to see a change “We need to be the change.” As the old saying goes “There is no I in Teamwork.” People need to band together, and tell CDPH they need to ensure Black-led organizations are granted the money needed to help their communities.
These are just some of the reasons why HIV/AIDS funding needs to be redistributed and focused on Black communities. The crisis of HIV and AIDS in Black communities is a major issue that has been ignored for too long. It’s time to stand up and put an end to this epidemic.
“Tomorrow is World AIDS Awareness Day. Are you aware of your status?” asked Russell Jackson, Director of operations for transforming re-entry services. He spoke at the press conference held by BLACHE.
By Sheena Robertson
Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity: Press Conference
South Side Help Center: Our Founder Betty Louise Smith
Black Leadership Advocacy Coalition for Healthcare Equity: Mission
IDPH: Illinois HIV Integrated Planning Council (IHIPC)
WBBM: HIV prevention in Chicago’s Black community needs more funding, alders and advocates say
The Chicago Reporter: The fight to end the HIV epidemic must happen in black neighborhoods
Images Courtesy of FightHIVinDC‘s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License