AIDS activists picket outside Chicago gay event
Chicago AIDS activists, disappointed that Mayor Richard M. Daley included only a $100,000 increase in funding for HIV prevention in his fiscal 2004 budget, picketed outside Tuesday's Chicago Gay and Lesbian Hall of Fame's 13th annual ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center, for which Daley served as host. Local community groups had requested a funding increase of $1 million to help make up for an 8% loss in city funding for HIV prevention programs since 1997. Activists have been picketing outside City Hall since Daley released his proposed budget last week and plan to protest next week during city council budget committee hearings. The mayor's budget includes $3.7 million for HIV prevention programs in 2004, which is less than the amount funded in 1997, according to the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Since 1997, HIV cases have risen by 32% in the city, while prevention funding has decreased. Fourteen of the city's 50 aldermen have indicated they will sponsor a budget amendment to provide an additional $1 million to prevention programs. "This disease is not going away, and we cannot afford to act like it is," said alderman Tom Tunney, one of the sponsors of the amendment. "If we are to have any hope of stopping HIV, we must significantly increase funding for prevention."