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AFC leads sound HIV/AIDS policy in Illinois, working on issues such as funding for HIV services, HIV prevention, increased access to housing, comprehensive sexual health education, and much more. This is your source for information on legislative updates and advocacy.

To learn more and find out how you can get involved in advocacy for funding and other issues, join AFC’s advocacy network.

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Current news

AFC awarded second year of funding to help people register for health insurance through Affordable Care Act PDF Print
Friday, November 07, 2014

In-person counselors will focus on connecting HIV-positive, LGBT, homeless Illinoisans to health insurance

 

For the second year, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) has been awarded a grant to fund in-person counselors (IPCs) to help individuals enroll for health insurance through the Get Covered Illinois In-Person Counselor Program.

In collaboration with AIDS Legal Council of Chicago and Howard Brown Health Center, AFC will focus on connecting communities to health insurance plans who often face barriers to medical care — people who are HIV-positive, LGBT, experiencing homelessness, formerly incarcerated, aged 12-24 and/or experiencing severe mental illness.

“It’s crucial that we help our most vulnerable communities connect to health insurance options through the Affordable Care Act (ACA),” said Daliah Mehdi, chief clinical officer at AFC. “If we are able to help communities that see higher rates of HIV infection have access to care, we can make a difference in people’s lives — and the future of the epidemic.”

Last year, the AFC-managed In-Person Counselor Program connected 3,427 individuals to the information and assistance they needed through the trained guidance of 13 IPCs, and AFC aims to match this capacity with six IPCs during the second enrollment period, starting Nov. 15.

The In-Person Counselor Program aims to help people complete Marketplace application forms before the enrollment deadline, assist people with applications to Medicaid, educate people about the fact that there is no deadline for Medicaid enrollment, and teach people about special enrollment periods.

Because AFC’s program is specifically designed to reach out to marginalized communities, IPCs will engage in cultural competency training to better understand the unique needs of each of their target populations. Beyond assisting those in need through the insurance enrollment process, IPCs will also be trained to guide clients to other resources that can help remove barriers to health care, such as housing programs, food pantries, domestic violence organizations, language assistance and Medicare.

AFC is one of 37 organizations that received part of a $25.8 million federal grant to support ACA implementation in Illinois.

Enrollment for coverage in 2015 through the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace will run from Nov. 15, 2014, through Feb. 15, 2015.

 

Need help applying for insurance coverage? Call AFC's hotline number to speak with a benefits coordinator and make an appointment with an In-Person Counselor: 312-784-9060.




AFC congratulates Governor-Elect Rauner, urges policy and funding continuity PDF Print
Wednesday, November 05, 2014

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) congratulates Illinois Governor-Elect Bruce Rauner on his victory last night. We and the community of HIV advocates stand ready to assist the governor-elect’s transition team as they plan for the new administration.

HIV and public health are not partisan issues. Every HIV infection averted through strong prevention programs saves the state over $380,000 in lifetime medical costs. Moreover, iron-clad scientific evidence shows that when people with HIV have access to comprehensive medical treatment, their individual health improves and their risk of transmitting HIV to partners is dramatically reduced. In fact, HIV treatment is one of the most powerful forms of prevention — and social supports like housing, case management, and food support help people with HIV stabilize their lives so they can focus on their health.

Last night, the people of Illinois spoke when they continued to elect state legislators who have worked to meet the needs of people living with and vulnerable to HIV. Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan (D-Chicago) and Senate President John Cullerton (D-Chicago) still lead veto-proof Democratic majorities in Springfield that will require bipartisan solutions to the state’s problems. We look forward to working with our allies in the Illinois General Assembly to continue the state’s strong public health and HIV programs.

Throughout Illinois, many individuals and organizations have played a vital role in the state’s Medicaid program. AFC calls on Governor-Elect Rauner to approach the Medicaid program without partisan biases and work with these key stakeholders to develop a full understanding of this program and the essential health care services it provides to individuals and families throughout the state, including many thousands living with HIV.

AFC also urges the Rauner administration to continue the state’s efforts to obtain an 1115 Medicaid waiver. The waiver proposal includes an HIV health home, which would improve access to health care for people with HIV. We also ask Governor-Elect Rauner to continue the state’s nearly four-year effort to implement care coordination programs, including managed care. Illinois is too far down the road in implementing these programs to change strategies.

In addition, we call on Governor Pat Quinn and the Illinois General Assembly to act immediately during the fall veto session to end the state’s fiscal cliff. Without legislative action, current income tax rates will drop Jan. 1, putting an immediate $2 billion hole in the state’s $36 billion budget. The impact next fiscal year will be even greater.

Finally, we thank Governor Quinn and the leaders of his administration for their tremendous work. Thanks to Governor Quinn, the Affordable Care Act has fully been implemented in Illinois, HIV prevention and care programs are stronger and the Medicaid program is on a path to better care. We are grateful to Governor Quinn and agency heads — including Illinois Department of Public Health Director LaMar Hasbrouck, Healthcare and Family Services Director Julie Hamos, Human Services Secretary Michelle Saddler, and others — for their leadership and wish them well.




New ad campaign urges Mexican men to seek HIV testing and care services PDF Print
Thursday, October 09, 2014

“Salud y Orgullo Mexicano” Debuts Citywide on Bus Shelters and Spanish-Language Radio in Advance of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day

In advance of National Latino AIDS Awareness Day (Oct. 15), the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) has launched “Salud y Orgullo Mexicano,” a citywide project designed to encourage Mexican men to connect to HIV testing and care services.

SOM 1Salud y Orgullo Mexicano (SOM), which means “Mexican health and pride,” aims to remove barriers to HIV testing and care for people of Mexican descent, the largest subset of the Latino population in Chicago. The project works to connect Mexican men to services at Erie Family Health Center in Humboldt Park (2750 West North Avenue), home of the Lending Hands for Life program which offers a range of services from HIV testing and medical care to emotional support.

Latinos are disproportionately affected by HIV; they make up 16 percent of the U.S. population, but account for 21 percent of new HIV infections.[1] When it comes to HIV testing, Latinos face three major obstacles: lack of access to health care, fear of stigma, and low perception of HIV risk. And once they are diagnosed with HIV, barriers to treatment often include lack of health insurance, difficulty navigating the U.S. health care system, and a shortage of culturally competent health care facilities.[2]

“We know that Latinos who recently immigrated to the United States are more likely to be diagnosed late in the course of their HIV infection than those who are more assimilated or were born in the U.S.,” said Roman Buenrostro, Director of Special Projects at AFC. “That’s why it wasn’t enough for our ads to simply be in Spanish; we designed them to resonate culturally with Mexican men to get their attention. We hope they do just that.”

The initiative is one of ten Special Projects of National Significance funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to improve health outcomes among Latinos who are vulnerable to contracting HIV or living with the disease. All of the projects take a “transnational approach,” meaning their health programs are tailored to the specific culture or place of origin of the Latino population they aim to reach.

In Chicago, the SOM project is getting the word out through 50 Spanish-language and bilingual bus shelter ads that put a twist on iconic imagery from the colorful cards used in lotería, a bingo-style game played by Mexican families in their homes since the late 1800s.

In one ad, the lotería card for El Valiente (the Brave One) is reimagined as a man who takes care of his health for his family. Another illustrates the challenge of life with HIV through a mix of cards and declares, “Erie can help you win the game.” There’s even an ad tailored for the gay, bisexual and transgender community with a headline that reads, “no matter what card you hold, all are welcome at Erie.”

The marketing campaign also includes lotería-themed public service announcements on La Que Buena (WOJO 105.1 FM) and La Tremenda (WRTO 1200 AM) that began airing Oct. 1. The PSAs were produced pro bono by Static Studios, a Chicago-based sound design studio.

All of the materials were developed this summer after focus group discussions with Mexican men from different age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds, and sexual orientations. The men shared their experiences navigating the health care system and bridging between the Mexican and American cultures. As a result, each ad has a bold color (to grab attention) and lists key services (to reduce perceived barriers to care): free and confidential HIV testing; easy to schedule appointments; bilingual/bicultural staff; no questions asked about legal status; high-quality HIV care regardless of ability to pay; counseling, psychiatry and support groups; dental and substance abuse treatment; respectful atmosphere.

“Lotería is a game of chance, but we want Mexican men to know that they don’t have to gamble with their health,” said Dr. Gail Patrick, Site Medical Director for Erie. “Finding a regular home for your health needs, like our clinic in Humboldt Park, and coming in even before you feel sick for preventive care will increase your odds of living a long and healthy life.”

The SOM bus shelter ads hit the streets on Sept. 30 and are concentrated in or near community areas with significant Mexican populations: Lower West Side (Pilsen), South Lawndale (Little Village), Humboldt Park, West Town, Avondale, Edgewater, Near West Side, Brighton Park, Gage Park. The ads and radio PSAs will each run for two months.

 

To view the SOM ads below and hear the PSAs, visit: www.aidschicago.org/media/som.

 


 

[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. HIV Surveillance Report, 2011; vol. 23, Table 3b. http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/reports/surveillance/2011/surveillance_Report_vol_23.html. Published February 2013.

[2] ¿A Dónde Vamos? New Directions for Culturally Relevant Latino Community Involvement in HIV/AIDS Prevention and Services Research. National Council of La Raza, 2011.




AFC thanks Rep. Mike Quigley for introducing bill to modernize federal AIDS housing program PDF Print
Monday, October 06, 2014

H.R. 5640 would reauthorize the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS program and update the program’s funding formula

The AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) thanks Rep. Mike Quigley, D-Ill., for introducing H.R. 5640, the Housing Opportunities for People with AIDS (HOPWA) Modernization Act. The bipartisan bill would reauthorize the HOPWA program and update the program’s funding formula.

The introduced bill builds on recommendations that the Obama administration included in the proposed federal FY2015 budget. The proposal was developed with extensive community consultation. Arturo V. Bendixen, a national AIDS housing expert, provided input on behalf of AFC and its Center for Housing and Health.

H.R. 5640, like the administration’s proposal, updates the HOPWA formula to distribute funding to areas with the greatest need. QuigleyThe proposed funding formula is based on the number of low-income people living with HIV, the cost of housing, and other factors. The HOPWA formula has not been changed since the early 1990s when the program was created and persons living with HIV/AIDS were often dying due to the virus.

AFC strongly supports the need to modernize the HOPWA funding formula. The Chicago metropolitan area received $7.7 million in HOPWA funding in 2014, and Illinois received an additional $1.1 million in funding. The updated formula is likely to result in small increases in funding for Chicago and Illinois, and reduce funding disparities in other areas of the country that are hardest hit by HIV.

Extensive research shows that the HOPWA program plays an essential role in providing stable housing to people living with HIV.

“Those in housing are more likely to have improved health outcomes, reduced health care costs, reduced mortality, and have a lower risk of transmitting HIV to community members,” said Arturo V. Bendixen, executive director of AFC’s Center for Housing and Health.

The bill was introduced by Rep. David Price, R-N.C., with lead co-sponsors Reps. Mike Quigley, Spencer Bachus, R-Ala., Robert Aderholt, R-Ala., and Jim McDermott, D-Wash. Although the bill is unlikely to advance in the few remaining months of the current Congress, it is an important first step in an issue that is likely to be debated in the 114th Congress.  

Read the bill

Summary of the proposed HUD formula and rationale




AIDS Foundation of Chicago names John Peller president/CEO PDF Print
Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Board of Directors of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) unanimously voted to name John Peller as AFC’s new president/CEO. An innovative national and local leader in the HIV/AIDS field, Peller most recently held the position of Interim president/CEO at AFC. Previously, Peller led AFC's advocacy and policy work at the city, state and national levels as vice president of policy. Peller is an accomplished nonprofit leader with an expertise in policy, advocacy, programs, grants management and operations. Peller will take the helm as president/CEO immediately.John-Peller-Headshot

“The board undertook a rigorous national search to find the strongest leader for AFC. John’s proven leadership, accomplishments in advancing HIV/AIDS policy, and keen understanding of innovative approaches to navigating the new health care landscape make it clear he is the best person to lead the organization,” said Ben Stringfellow, chair of AFC’s Board of Directors.

Peller will oversee AFC as the organization approaches its 30th year of service in 2015. During the next year, he will lead the process to develop AFC’s strategic plan that will guide the organization over the next few years.

“I am honored to lead AFC during a time of unprecedented opportunity to impact the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” said John Peller, incoming president/CEO. ”Through new prevention technologies like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), our knowledge about treatment as a method for prevention, and expanded health care access, we are in a stronger position than ever before to support individuals living with HIV/AIDS and to virtually end new infections. I look forward to partnering with individuals and organization throughout our community to meet the needs of people living with and vulnerable to HIV.”  

Peller’s recent areas of focus have included the implementation of the Affordable Care Act and ensuring that new federal and state health care systems align with the health care needs of people with HIV. He also has an expertise in Medicaid policy, federal and state budget and appropriations, and the Illinois AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP).

Peller created the HIVHealthReform.org project, which aims to prepare the HIV community for health care reform. He has participated in webinars reaching thousands of people with HIV and people working in the HIV field. Peller’s advocacy promoting affordable access to HIV medications on marketplace plans attracted national attention from the Wall Street Journal, Time Magazine and the Washington Post.

Peller started at AFC in 2005 as AFC's state lobbyist. He worked in Springfield to enact sound HIV/AIDS public policy, defend the rights of people with HIV/AIDS and advocate for increased services and prevention for people living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Before coming to AFC, Peller worked at Chicago Children’s Advocacy Center, National Association of State Medicaid Directors and American Public Human Services Association. He has a Bachelor’s degree from the Johns Hopkins University and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Chicago. Peller was born and raised in New York City and lives in Chicago with his partner, David Jablonowski.

Peller has trained with Team to End AIDS (T2), AFC’s endurance sports fundraising program, since 2003, completing five marathons, two half marathons and several triathlons with the program. He has raised tens of thousands of dollars for the fight against HIV though T2.

 

 




More than 3,000 runners, walkers, volunteers raise over $380,000 for 32 HIV/AIDS organizations PDF Print
Thursday, September 18, 2014

Governor Pat Quinn thanked runners and walkers and reiterated his commitment to HIV/AIDS services in Illinois this morning at the start of the thirteenth annual AIDS Run & Walk Chicago. The event welcomed more than 3,000 runners, walkers and volunteers to raise more than $380,000 for 32 organizations that support people living with HIV/AIDS.

The event took participants in the event's 10K run and 5K run and walk along Chicago's Lake Shore Path, starting and finishing in Arvey Field in Grant Park.

15228364956 eafd88582d zGovernor Quinn was joined by Congressman Mike Quigley, Representative Greg Harris, Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle, and the AIDS Foundation of Chicago's Interim President & CEO John Peller. The group motivated corporate teams, individual runners and staff and clients of HIV/AIDS service providers across the Chicago metropolitan area before they crossed the start line.

Morning festivities also included a performance by the Chicago Human Rhythm Project in celebration of Global Female Condom Day. Participants Danced4Demand along with the ensemble to warm up and increase awareness and availability of female condoms, and Governor Quinn marked his "demand" for female condoms on a Citywide map where attendees want to see more availability of this prevention device.

The 5K winners were Alyssa Bracy and Jeremy Solomon, and the 10K winners were Thomas Lynch and Lindsay Young. A full list of participant finish times is available at aidsrunwalk.org.

After the race, runners and walkers viewed the stoic AIDS Memorial Quilt panels on display, and many in attendance participated in free HIV screening at testing trucks in Arvey Field.

Through a flash mob performance, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago participant Armando Ramirez proposed to his longtime boyfriend, Joel Guzman. The couple embraced surrounded by friends, dancers and HIV/AIDS advocates.

Funds raised through AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will benefit programs and services for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and 31 other metropolitan organizations that provide life-saving services to people living with HIV/AIDS. Since it was established in 2001, AIDS Run & Walk Chicago has netted more than $4.5 million to battle the epidemic.

Donations to AIDS Run & Walk Chicago will be accepted through the end of the year. To donate or learn more, visit aidsrunwalk.org or call 312-334-0946.




Advocacy groups report to UN on US failures to address the HIV epidemic in communities of color PDF Print
Wednesday, August 06, 2014

CHICAGO —HIV/AIDS activists have found a unique way to pressure the U.S. to prioritize and address rising rates of HIV among communities of color. In a report submitted to the United Nations, a national coalition of HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations details the disparate impact of HIV/AIDS on communities of color, and identifies the lack of U.S. action on social drivers of the epidemic in those communities as a human rights violation.

Led by the HIV Prevention Justice Alliance (HIV PJA), a project of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC), the report calls on the U.S. to make good on its ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD) in January 2013. In the Convention, the U.S. pledged to “address disparities in HIV prevention and care involving racial and ethnic minorities and other marginalized populations.”

“Unfortunately, U.S. efforts to combat HIV/AIDS in communities of color have fallen far short of their goals,” said Suraj Madoori, manager of HIV PJA, who will deliver the report to the UN in Geneva. “We believe that this failure to uplift the human rights of these historically marginalized people is a direct violation of this country’s pledge to adhere to CERD.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), African Americans represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for an estimated 44 percent of new HIV infections in 2010. New infections among Latinos/Latinas were also significantly higher than their white counterparts in 2010. The report also details the rising epidemic among black gay and bisexual men, as well as transgender women.

“[H]igh infection rates are due in part to a combination of unjust and uneven policies and laws that enforce racism, stigma, criminalization and discrimination,” the HIV advocates’ report asserts. The report cites specific examples such as mass imprisonment, poverty, unemployment and lack of health care access as key contributors to the U.S.’s systemic failure to prevent new HIV infections among socially disenfranchised groups. Read the full report here.

“We believe that an intersectional approach to the epidemic is key to overcome racial inequalities,” explains report co-author Naina Khanna, Executive Director of the Positive Women’s Network of the United States of America (PWN-USA). “We need to address the impact of social drivers such as HIV criminalization laws, unemployment, and lack of access to overall health care, in order to make significant progress.”

Built on input and consensus from partners, with expert assistance constructing legal arguments from the Center for HIV Law and Policy, the report states, “[T]his disparity – in part due to laws, policies and practices – continues to systemically discriminate against communities of color; increases vulnerability to HIV transmission and to stigma and discrimination following HIV diagnosis; and places people of color living with HIV at undue risk for criminalization and human rights violations.”

In its 2013 compliance report to the CERD committee, the U.S. identified the National HIV/AIDS Strategy (NHAS) as its key method for eliminating racial disparities in new HIV infections. The NHAS aimed to take sweeping actions to prevent new HIV infections and support Americans living with HIV/AIDS, but the authors of the CERD report believe it will fall far short of its goals.

“We hope that the HIV advocates’ report to the U.N. will urge the U.S. to more effectively respond to the racial disparities in new HIV infections, reconfigure the NHAS to be more ambitious in its goals and encourage it to be more accountable in its implementation across vulnerable communities,” said co-author Kenyon Farrow, Director of U.S. and Global Policy at Treatment Action Group.

The coalition behind this report includes AFC and HIV PJA, PWN-USA, the Center for HIV Law and Policy, the Counter Narrative Project, National Working Positive Coalition, Sero Project, Treatment Action Group and Women with a Vision.




Illinois advocates hail great first step to end discrimination against transgender individuals in health insurance coverage PDF Print
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

CHICAGO — Several Illinois-based advocacy groups joined together today to praise the Illinois Department of Insurance for taking a crucial first step in addressing discrimination against transgender Illinoisans in insurance coverage. The groups  the American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, Lambda Legal and the TransLife Center of Chicago House & Social Service Agency  have a long history of working for the rights of LGBT people and people living with HIV. The groups also share a commitment to ending discrimination against transgender people and advancing parity in transgender people’s access to health care.

The Bulletin issued to private insurers in the state notes that many insurance plans sold in Illinois may not discriminate against transgender people and must provide them coverage for the same medical treatment available for non-transgender policy holders. The Bulletin cites current Illinois law and the federal Affordable Care Act, both of which prohibit discrimination by insurers against transgender people because of their gender identity.

Transgender people often face discrimination when seeking insurance coverage of medically-necessary treatments prescribed by their physicians, even though such treatments are routinely covered for others. For example, hormone therapy and regular blood tests to guard against any negative medical consequences are routinely covered for many people, such as post-menopausal women, but are currently denied to many transgender people. Likewise, breast reconstruction surgery is routinely covered for women after surgery for breast cancer, but is routinely denied for transgender people, even if ordered by a physician.

There are many other medical procedures and treatments that are covered routinely each day  from surgery to mammograms to Pap smears  for non-transgender people that are often denied to transgender people, even though they are prescribed by a physician as medically-necessary treatment.

The Department of Insurance bulletin says such denials are discriminatory and not permitted under existing law. In recent months, insurance authorities in Oregon, California, Colorado, Vermont, Massachusetts, Washington and the District of Columbia all have made similar statements, making clear that health insurers in those states cannot discriminate on the basis of gender identity. The American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians and other national medical organizations all have called for an end to insurance discrimination based on gender identity.

"Denial of healthcare coverage for needed medical treatment is far too common, especially for transgender people," said Owen Daniel-McCarter, Legal Director for the TransLife Center at Chicago House. "Private insurance companies can no longer deny transgender individuals, often through explicit exclusions written into the policies, the medical and mental health care that is routinely provided to non-transgender policy holders. We applaud the state of Illinois for making clear that such denials are a violation of Illinois law."

The bulletin from the Department of Insurance cites three laws that prohibit discrimination against transgender people: the Affordable Care Act, the Illinois Human Rights Act and the Illinois Mental Health Parity Act. The bulletin explains that a plan may not be certified in Illinois (a prerequisite to a plan being marketed and sold in the state) if the plan discriminates against transgender people.

"This guidance helps ensure parity in healthcare coverage, making certain that services such as mental healthcare, cancer screenings and hormone therapy are routinely covered for transgender people when the insurer provides those services to non-transgender policy-holders," said John Peller, Interim President and CEO at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "Transgender exclusions have been present in many Illinois health care insurance plans and it’s time for that discrimination to end."

"The lack of access to medically necessary care for transgender people can cause real harm," added John Knight, LGBT Project Director at the ACLU of Illinois. "The AMA, among other prominent medical groups, notes that the failure to provide medically-necessary treatment to transgender people often leads to tragic consequences — including a disproportionate frequency of depression and attempted suicide. The Department's bulletin makes access to these services easier by calling for an end to these discriminatory practices in insurance coverage."

"Up until today, insurance plans often denied coverage for services from the routine to the complex simply on the basis of the individual being transgender," according to Christopher Clark, Counsel for Lambda Legal. "There is simply no justification for these denials. The city and county of San Francisco, for example, have provided comprehensive coverage for transgender employees for many years and have seen no discernible increase in costs."

A limited number of private insurance plans currently remain outside of these non-discriminatory protections. The advocates today called on officials in Illinois to take necessary action to ensure that individuals in the state who are covered under these policies do not suffer harmful discrimination.

The organizations noted that it is up to state agencies like the Illinois Department of Insurance to make the promise of non-discrimination contained in law a reality. The group said that the bulletin issued today is a critical step in that direction.

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Illinois General Assembly Votes to Protect HIV/AIDS and Supportive Housing Services PDF Print
Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Human Service Appropriations Chairs Rep. Greg Harris and Sen. Heather Steans champions of HIV/AIDS funding

SPRINGFIELD — Amid partisan turmoil in the statehouse, the Illinois General Assembly voted in its last days of session in May to increase funding for HIV/AIDS services in the 2015 budget by $1 million. This move comes after weeks of uncertainty about the future of HIV/AIDS funding in the state.

The General Assembly passed House Bill 6096 Amendment 1, which not only boosted direct HIV services, but also increased funding for other social services offered in Illinois. The state supportive housing budget, for example, was increased by $2.6 million to assist an additional 896 people in need. Supportive housing helps low-income people who are homeless and living with chronic diseases, including HIV or behavioral health issues, live successfully in the community.

HIV funding cuts over the last several years have resulted in dramatic decreases in the availability of HIV prevention, housing and supportive services across the state, which threaten the lives of people living with HIV. Tireless advocacy by people living with HIV and their allies averted a $4 million cut to total state HIV spending for services such as prevention and care. The state AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP), which provides life-saving medications to low-income people living with HIV, would have seen devastating cuts. Illinois' ADAP investment enables thousands of people living with HIV to access essential medications that they otherwise could not afford.

"Lifesaving and sustaining programs such as these aren't debatable. They can't be cut because of differing politics or priorities in policies," said Chez Ordoñez, Director of Government Relations at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). "This money provides support for those Illinois citizens who are in need of the most help. These drastic cuts should never be political or fiscal priorities — they should always be moral ones."

"While we applaud the increase in HIV/AIDS funding, the General Assembly passed a broken budget that fails to provide stable revenue for lifesaving state programs," continued Ordoñez. "AFC will continue to lead community advocacy to urge elected officials to support sustainable revenue, such as continuing tax rates that were enacted in 2011."

HB 6096 increased HIV funding from $25 million in FY14 to $26 million in FY15. Supportive housing funding increased to $30.4 million and is expected to support services for 12,000 people in the next fiscal year.

"House and Senate Human Services Appropriations Committee chairs Rep. Greg Harris (D-Chicago) and Sen. Heather Steans (D-Chicago) fought to protect the interests of the state's HIV/AIDS community," said John Peller, interim president/CEO of AFC. "We would like to greatly thank them for their advocacy and exemplary leadership. We are also grateful for leadership from members of the House Human Services Appropriations Committee, including State Reps. Sara Feigenholtz (D-Chicago), La Shawn Ford (D-Chicago), Robyn Gabel (D-Evanston), Esther Golar (D-Chicago), Elizabeth Hernandez (D-Cicero), Camille Lilly (D-Chicago) and Rita Mayfield (D-Waukegan)."

 

Media contact: Chez Ordoñez, 312-334-0928, This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it




Illinois governor’s office warns ACA health insurance plans against HIV/AIDS discrimination PDF Print
Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Announcement sets stage for better HIV medication coverage in 2015

 

CHICAGO — In a statement issued on May 23, Illinois Department of Insurance (DOI) Director Andrew Boron informs insurers that the department will not permit health insurance plans that discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS to be sold on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015.

According to the statement, “prohibition on discrimination applies equally to all health conditions, including but not limited to individuals with HIV/AIDS.”

“Thanks to Governor Pat Quinn and DOI Director Andrew Boron, Illinois is the first state in the nation to issue an explicit prohibition on discrimination against people with HIV in health insurance marketplace plans,” said John Peller, interim president/CEO for AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC). “This move serves as the latest example of the ways Governor Quinn has served as a watchdog for people living with HIV.”

AFC and AIDS Legal Council of Chicago (ALCC) received pro bono assistance from law firm Jenner & Block to illustrate possible gaps in coverage for people living with HIV/AIDS in current health plans available through Illinois’ insurance marketplace, which was established by the Affordable Care Act. AFC released a report in March 2014 that revealed the extremely high cost of HIV medications for marketplace plans and indicated that some plans are not covering certain HIV drugs at all.

“Health plans endanger the lives of people with HIV when they deny medications. The DOI’s statement underscores that this practice is discriminatory,” said Thomas D. Yates, executive director for AIDS Legal Council of Chicago.

“This is a major step toward fulfilling the Affordable Care Act's promise to end discrimination by health insurers against people with pre-existing conditions, including HIV/AIDS,” said Daniel A. Johnson, a Jenner & Block associate. Johnson, along with colleagues Christopher C. Dickinson and D. Matthew Feldhaus, formulated a comprehensive report for the DOI addressing insurance companies' positions on HIV/AIDS treatment (available here).

According to Jenner & Block’s report to the DOI, insurance discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS can come in many forms, including burdensome restrictions on HIV/AIDS drug coverage.

The statement directs insurers to adhere to recommendations by the Department of Health and Human Services on “recommended” and “alternative” drug regimens for HIV/AIDS treatment.

According to the department’s statement, other measures insurance companies can take that might be found to be discriminatory against HIV-positive enrollees include forcing them to use less effective HIV drugs before moving on to more effective drugs (”step therapy”) and requiring an enrollee to seek pre-authorization for every refill of HIV drugs after the insurer has approved the initial filling.

“The Affordable Care Act is built on the concept of equal access to quality medical coverage for all Americans, and that includes people living with HIV/AIDS,” said Peller. “The action by the Department of Insurance is a strong step towards making that concept real. We look forward to working with the department and insurers to make sure people with HIV get the coverage they need to stay healthy on the Illinois Health Insurance Marketplace in 2015.”




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