May 2013 has been a banner month for the policy team at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). The Illinois General Assembly passed several key measures that will benefit people with HIV/AIDS and empower individuals and allow communities across the state to make healthy decisions and reduce HIV infections and stigma.
IL House Restores HIV/AIDS Funding to Budget:
A major victory occurred for AIDS advocates on May 28, when the Illinois House adopted a final state budget for fiscal year 2014 that reverses nearly all of Governor Pat Quinns proposed $4.27 million cuts from the HIV funding line. Under Governor Quinns proposed budget released in March, total state HIV spending would have dropped from $26.23 million in FY13 to $21.75 million in FY14. This weeks action by the House will restore $3.25 million of the proposed cut, allocating $25 million to HIV services.
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State Senate Passes Comprehensive Sex Ed Bill:
May 22 witnessed a massive win for supporters of comprehensive sexual health education. In partnership with the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Planned Parenthood of Illinois, and others, AFC played a major role in moving this legislation through General Assembly. The bill creates a standard for existing sexual health education courses in grades six through 12; provides medically accurate, age-appropriate, complete information on reducing sexually transmitted diseases and infections, as well as unintended pregnancies; ensures that local school districts can choose curricula that meet their communitys standards; and allows for parents to remove their children from sexual health education courses for any reason without penalty to their child. It was sponsored in the General Assembly by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Camille Lilly (D-Chicago). The bill now awaits the Governors signature for enactment.
Senate Overturns Outdated, Stigmatizing Law:
On May 23, the Illinois Senate passed a bill to repeal an outdated law known as the HIV-Positive Student Principal Notification Law. In the 1980s, the state began mandating local health departments to report a childs HIV status to the school principal, whenever a young person tests positive for the disease. Under this antiquated legislation, principals then have the authority to share a childs HIV status with other school personnel. Illinois is the only state with such a law still on the books, despite no medical justification for this practice; the Senates vote puts us a governors signature away from toppling Principal Notification. This effort was spearheaded by Sen. Iris Martinez (D-Chicago) and Rep. La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago). The House approved the measure on March 7.
Medicaid Expands Under Senates Vote:
The Senate also approved a bill on May 28 to expand the states Medicaid program under President Obamas Affordable Care Act, sending the legislation to Governor Quinns desk for his signature. This will allow Illinois to extend Medicaid coverage to adults ages 19 through 64 who earn less than about $16,000 per year, including thousands of individuals living with HIV. Previously, people with HIV had to be totally disabled before they qualified for Medicaid. This measure was sponsored by Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) and Rep. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago). The House passed the bill on May 27.
AFC Releases Groundbreaking Report on CountyCare:
Finally, AFC released a report this May regarding CountyCare, a new Medicaid program for uninsured adults in Cook County, formed under the Affordable Care Act. The report, CountyCare & the Ryan White Program: Working Together to Optimize Health Outcomes for People with HIV, outlines the importance of CountyCare and the role it can play in improving the HIV communitys access to health services. It also contains a number of policy recommendations for the city and state departments of public health, Cook County, and the federal government.
To learn more about the ways health care reform will benefit people with HIV, visit www.HIVHealthReform.org, a partnership between AFC and a number of national organizations.
Founded in 1985 by community activists and physicians, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago is a catalyst for local, national, and international action against HIV/AIDS.