All Rights reserved
Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich on Friday signed a law focusing on preventing HIV infections among African-Americans in the state, particularly among incarcerated blacks, the Chicago Tribune reports. The legislation, called the African-American HIV/AIDS Response Act, requires the state Department of Corrections and all county jails in the state to offer free HIV antibody tests to all inmates when they arrive at prison, during their imprisonment, and before they complete their sentences and are released. HIV tests were previously available only at some jails in the state, and inmates were required to pay a small fee for them. The law also requires prison officials to provide transitional case management and referrals for treatment and support services to all HIV-positive inmates when they are released.
Other components of the law include requiring state offices, such as driver's license stations and public aid offices, in areas of the city with a high number of African-American residents to provide space to groups offering HIV testing; launching a study at Chicago State University to investigate the links between imprisonment and HIV infection risks; and creating the position of African-American HIV/AIDS response officer in the state health department, corrections department, and governor's office. The law will take effect on January 1.
According to the Illinois state health department, African-Americans account for 15% of the state's population but make up 51% of its HIV cases. About 65% of all prisoners in Illinois are African-American. The HIV prevalence rate in Illinois jails is estimated to be five times the rate among the general population.