Representative La Shawn K. Ford spearheads the fight against AIDS
State Rep. La Shawn K. Ford Teams Up With The Chicago Defender to increase HIV awareness in efforts to reduce the spread of HIV across Illinois specifically targeting the African Americans. A meeting for all interested stakeholders was held on February 24 at The Chicago Defender offices. Approximately fifty community and agency leaders gathered to join Representative Ford who is invested in improving the quality of life for Blacks and improving the community. Ford knows the importance of information and says, “We must do all we can to screen more people for HIV, find those who are HIV positive, and get them into care. Early detection saves lives and also prevents infection. We have heard from many people in the community that there still may be barriers to screening for HIV, and we want to work hard to eliminate those barriers. We also need to examine funding for HIV testing and care, which have been threatened. I would like to thank The Chicago Defender, a black-owned newspaper, for joining the efforts to reduce the spread of HIV during Black History Month.” Cheryl Mainor, publisher of the Chicago Defender, said, “It is our responsibility to arm our community with information that can give them choices that may make a difference in the quality of life for generations to come.” So the Chicago Defender joins Rep. Ford and the stakeholders in its efforts to reduce the rate of AIDS as a media partner.
Facts noted by stakeholders at previous meetings show that black people continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV nationally and in Illinois. In the US, 1 in 16 Black men and 1 in 32 Black women will be diagnosed with HIV infection. Blacks represent approximately 12% of the U.S. population, but accounted for an estimated 44% of new HIV infections in 2010 (and 41% in 2011). In Illinois, the rate of Black men living with HIV is 6.2 times that of white males and the rate of Black women living with HIV is 17.8 times that of white females. Some stakeholders believe that these disparities may be explained by HIV testing practices in Illinois. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends routine opt-out HIV screening for everyone ages 13-64. Yet, Illinois ranks 35th of 51 states and D.C. for persons ever tested for HIV, with a rate of 36.6% (national goal of 44.2%). For Blacks, Illinois ranks 21st out of 51. AIDS awareness is a necessary and key step in lowering the spread of AIDS amongst populations and even more so amongst Blacks where the tendency to avoid medical attention. It is especially important to reach the female population. Strategies on how to reach the Black community were discussed and plans to implement them.
This was the 5th HIV Community Collaboration meeting that Ford has organized in the last year and a half. The goals of the meeting are: to inform policy-making to increase HIV screening by making it easier, routine and more widespread; make it easier to obtain HIV-related grants by community-based organizations; and keep collaboration members informed of issues affecting their work in HIV in the community. A major item on the agenda will be concerning strategies to refund the African American HIV/AIDS Response Act Fund (AAARAF) and discussion about other changes in HIV policy and administration at the state and local levels. For more information, contact one of Ford’s constituent service offices: 816 S. Oak Park Avenue in Oak Park at 708-445-3673, 4800 W. Chicago Avenue in Chicago at 773-378-5902 or in the Stratton Office Building in Springfield at 217-782-5962, or visit http://www.lashawnford.com.