Policy & Politics
Illinois: New Law to Focus on HIV in Blacks; Infection Rate Tied to Prison Population
August 19, 2005
Today, Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D) is expected to sign a bill, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, that targets the link between HIV transmission and the disproportionately high incarceration rates of black people. "We must act now and do all that we can to stop the spread of this disease," said Blagojevich.
According to state health and census figures, blacks comprise 15 percent of Illinois' population but account for 51 percent of its AIDS cases and 65 percent of its prison population. AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) estimates the rate of HIV infection among state prisoners to be five times that of the general population. Studies indicate that prison is a primary source of HIV transmission, and that released prisoners may return to society with the infection.
Co-sponsored by Rep. Constance Howard (D-Chicago) and Sen. Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood), the African-American HIV/AIDS Response Act describes the epidemic among blacks as "a crisis separate and apart" from that of other communities. "Emergencies require emergency measures," said Howard.
The bill would expand voluntary testing in state prisons and county jails; create the position of African-American HIV/AIDS response officer in the governor's office and in the state Departments of Health, Human Services, and Corrections to coordinate a response to the crisis; and commission a Chicago State University study to research and quantify the link between incarceration and HIV. Originally, the bill authorized condom distribution to prisoners, but that provision was removed after opposition from the Department of Corrections, which bans condoms in jails.
State officials estimate that $2.2 million will be needed annually to implement the act, which takes effect Jan. 1. AFC and other community groups said ensuring the measure gets funded next year will be a top priority.
08.19.2005; Johnathon E. Briggs
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.