Illinois Department of Public Health acts in response to push by Black-led community-based organizations, service-providers, and state legislators to consider COVID-19 challenges
The Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH) reopened acceptance of grant applications on Monday, February 22, 2021 to the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Act (AAHARA) funding after meetings lead by GreaterWorks! Inc. in collaboration with multiple, Black-led community-based organizations to address racial funding inequity for HIV/AIDS.
Of the nine Black-led agencies that applied, seven are being funded up to $100K each for HIV/AIDS programs and services. Funding will work to help organizations bolster awareness and provide enhanced and expanded prevention education, testing, connects-to-care, case management and healthcare services. An additional $50K will be awarded for capacity building assistance.
Agencies that were not awarded can revise and resubmit applications, and agencies that did not apply previously can now apply by the new March 12, 2021 deadline.
IDPH initially closed applications to the AAHARA grant on October 20, 2020, 30 days after announcement, despite various requests to extend the deadline to accommodate Black-led agency’s challenges while providing necessary services during the COVID-19 pandemic. Only agencies with 51%+ African American board members qualify for AAHARA funding.
During the same time period organizations also made requests to extend the deadline for the Quality-of-Life HIV/AIDS grant for which White-led agencies can also apply and historically receive the majority of funding. IDPH complied with the extension request, allowing agencies 9 weeks to complete and submit grant applications.
During initial meetings in January 2021 with IDPH HIV/AIDS Section leader regarding late announcements and release of AAHARA funding, Black-led agencies were told that 1) despite more than 2 months of review no date for grant selection had been determined, 2) the grant could not be reopened and 3) funds remaining in the AAHARA budget would possibly be allocated to agencies across the state for PPP.
In meetings between Black-led service-providers, GreaterWorks! Inc., State Rep. Lamont Robinson, Chiefs of IDPH and the Governor’s Policy Office, these issues and others regarding funding inequity were discussed and recommendations were made that lead to reopening the grant on February 22, 2021.
African-Americans comprise only 14.2% of Illinois’ population, yet 48% of new HIV diagnoses and 43.1% of existing diagnoses of those living with HIV in Illinois are African-Americans. Regardless of this disproportionate impact, the budget for the AAHARA is only $1.2M of the IDPH HIV/AIDS budget of more than $120M.
GreaterWorks! Inc. strategized to address this inequity by coordinating meetings with IDPH, and separately produced a virtual forum in commemoration of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 5th to address the continued rising rates of HIV/AIDS among non-Hispanic Black people and to bring attention and resources to help negate the spread and impact of HIV/AIDS in Black communities.
Forum speakers included Illinois State legislators State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins, D-16 th Senate District State Senator Kimberly Lightford, Illinois Senate Majority Leader, and D-27 th State Representative Justin Slaughter. Speakers promoted support of Illinois House Bill HB5842, introduced by State Representative Lamont J. Robinson Jr. (D-5th District, Chicago) to increase funding of the Illinois African American HIV/AIDS Response Act to $15M.
They, along with Chicago-area community and faith-based leaders as well as the Black AIDS Institute (BAI), Policy & Organizing Manager, Maxx Boykin, urged support of HB5842 among the Illinois Legislative Black Caucus and, “legislators who don’t look like us,” to support the AAHARA and other strategies that address inequity of the State’s HIV/AIDS funding allocation. White-led agencies based in Chicago have historically had more access to State funding opportunities, though they have been ineffective at providing culturally responsive programs and services, resulting in years of continual and exacerbated racial inequity in the incidence and impact of the virus.
Participating Executive Directors of Illinois Black-Led HIV/AIDS community-based service providers included:
Vanessa Smith, Executive Director, South Side Help Center
LaSaia Wade, Founder/Executive Director, Brave Space Alliance
Rev. Doris Green, Founder/CEO, Transforming Reentry Services/MWIPM
Eula Burge, Executive Director, ProActive Community Services
Ariq Cabbler, Executive Director, Brother’s Health Collective
Jerome Montgomery, Executive Director, Project VIDA
David Dodd, Board Chair, Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus
Herschel Gamble, Founder/CEO, Community Supportive Living Systems, Inc.
Marvinetta Penn, Founder/Executive Director, Global Girls, Inc.
Jeffrey Jones, CFO, Universal Family Connections
Creola A. Kizart-Hampton, President/Founder, GreaterWorks! Inc., lead communications and public affairs strategy and implementation, including establishing meetings and engagement with IDPH and legislators.