This week, Ramon Gardenhire walked through the doors leading to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC)’s headquarters on Jackson Blvd. It’s something he has done many times for years, but today things are different: AFC has a new president/CEO, a new office floor, many new staff members — and now, a new leader of its Policy team.
Gardenhire, who served as AFC’s director of Government Relations for three years, will now lead the organization’s policy and advocacy initiatives as its vice president of Policy.
"Scientific innovations and unprecedented opportunities with health care reform offer tremendous promise for reducing HIV infections and improving the continuum of care for millions living with HIV,” said Gardenhire. “However, if we don't address the social determinants of health such as poverty, limited access to health care, lack disproportionate HIV testing and linkage to care, that opportunity has the potential to manifest into an empty promise for those in marginalized communities and communities of color."
In his previous role, Gardenhire served as AFC's state lobbyist, working in Springfield to enact sound HIV/AIDS public policy and advocate for increased services and prevention for people living with and vulnerable to HIV.
“Ramon’s greatest accomplishment during his stint at AFC was successfully co-leading the advocacy campaign to expand Medicaid in Illinois,” said John Peller, AFC’s president/CEO. “Thanks to in part to Ramon’s leadership, over 400,000 very low-income, vulnerable people — including thousands with HIV — have access to more comprehensive health care in Illinois through Medicaid.”
Peller previously held the role of vice president of Policy and worked closely with Gardenhire, who left in late 2013 to serve as deputy policy director for SEIU Healthcare Illinois and Indiana.
Before coming to AFC, Ramon worked at the Federation for Community Schools, Young Democrats of America, National Democratic Committee, The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Academy of Physician Assistants, where he worked on state level political and legislative initiatives. He has a Bachelor’s degree from Slippery Rock University and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University Law School.
“We have many policy challenges ahead,” said Peller. “I’m confident that Ramon is the right person at the right time to lead AFC’s advocacy and policy efforts forward. We have an unprecedented opportunity to harness the power of HIV medications to treat people with HIV and prevent new HIV cases.”