Sixty-two Chicago AIDS, gay rights, and health organizations on Wednesday sent a letter to Mayor Richard M. Daley asking him to boost city HIV prevention spending by $1 million in the 2004 budget. "This letter from local agencies is yet another clarion call to the mayor that the unabated spread of this deadly disease throughout our city is totally unacceptable," said Brent Adams, policy associate at the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. "A large and broad coalition of local residents, organizations, and elected officials are unified in this cause." Among the groups to sign the letter are the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, American Civil Liberties Union of Illinois, Equality Illinois, Hemophilia Foundation of Illinois, Howard Brown Health Center, Human Rights Campaign, Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center, National Association on HIV Over Fifty, Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area, and the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition.
The mayor's final 2004 budget is set to be released on October 15, and AIDS advocates have received no assurances from the mayor's office as to whether the mayor will try to increase or cut funding for HIV prevention or keep it at its current level. City funding for HIV prevention has been cut 8% since 1997--from nearly $4 million to $3.6 million--while the city's reported number of AIDS cases has increased 32%, from 15,441 to 20,480. People of color account for 81% of the city's newly reported AIDS cases and 77% of new HIV infections, according to the letter. HIV infection rates also are climbing among Chicago's gay and bisexual men.
Twenty-eight of Chicago's 50 aldermen sent a separate letter to Daley asking him to boost HIV prevention spending. "The city's HIV/AIDS crisis will not wait until economic conditions improve," the aldermen wrote.