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The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) is deeply concerned by the Rauner Administration’s unilateral decision to not spend $9.7 million in approved HIV funding that was appropriated by the Illinois state legislature in FY 18, without any public disclosure or notification of this decision. In its response to a recent Freedom of Information Act request filed by AFC, the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) confirmed that the department only spent $15.7 million of the approved $25.4 million of funds for HIV services.
“AFC is alarmed that the provision of lifesaving resources has been frozen by bureaucrats and that such a vital decision impacting vulnerable Illinoisans has been made without any transparency,” explained John Peller, AIDS Foundation of Chicago’s president and CEO. “Have other budget priorities appropriated by the legislature been underfunded to such a significant degree? Or was HIV spending singled out for a 38 percent spending cut?”
“Republicans and Democrats in the General Assembly worked in a bipartisan manner to intentionally increase HIV funds during an exceptionally tough budget year,” Peller continued. “The Rauner Administration appears to have ignored the spending priorities of their own party members.”
These vital funds should have been distributed to strengthen the existing foundation of HIV prevention, health care and housing services in Illinois. AFC demands that Gov. Rauner release the remaining $9.7 million in HIV funding, and we implore members of the General Assembly to investigate why these critical resources were not deployed to combat the HIV epidemic in Illinois. The state’s FY 19 budget is due to be released by the governor on Wednesday, Feb. 14; it is imperative that this investigation take place ahead of that budget’s implementation.
Illinois is already making great strides in HIV prevention; new HIV cases have dropped statewide by 28 percent from 2006-2015. In fact, the state is at a pivotal moment in the HIV epidemic, when the technology, knowledge and policies are in place to dramatically impact the course of the epidemic. Ironically, IDPH has fully embraced the goal of the statewide Getting to Zero Illinois project, which would eliminate new cases of HIV in the state by 2027, but expanded funding for treatment, prevention and supportive services are still needed to achieve that goal. Nearly 1,400 people are diagnosed with HIV every year in Illinois, most of whom are members of Black and Latinx communities, which are most impacted by the epidemic.
“It is beyond disappointing to see that the Rauner Administration has left almost $10 million on the table, which could have been used to achieve a goal that will save Illinois untold millions of dollars and improve the lives of thousands of people living with and vulnerable to HIV,” Peller explained. “For example, these funds could have been spent expanding routine HIV testing in health care settings and community-based HIV testing to identify individuals who don’t know they have HIV and link them to care.”