The Illinois Lottery and Illinois Department of Public Health distributed funds from the Red Ribbon Cash lottery ticket to 11 agencies working on HIV/AIDS research, treatment and prevention in the state June 7. The check presentations happened at the Center on Halsted, which was one of the funded agencies.
The funds are raised by sales of the Red Ribbon Cash ticket, which costs $3, with 100% of the proceeds going to HIV causes. The ticket, sold since 2008, has raised $7.6 million to fight HIV/AIDS in Illinois.
Illinois Lottery Acting Director Greg Smith and Illinois Department of Health HIV/AIDS Director Eduardo Alvarado presented grantees with ceremonial checks. Grant amounts range from $50,000 to $75,000:
Asian Human Services, Chicago, $50,000
Bethany Place, Belleville, $50,000
Brothers Health Collective, Chicago, $75,000
Center on Halsted, Chicago, $50,000
Lake County Health Department, Waukegan, $50,000
McLean County Health Department, Bloomington, $50,000
Men and Women in Prison Ministries, Chicago, $75,000
Phoenix Center, Springfield, $75,000
Puerto Rican Cultural Center, Chicago, $50,000
Sisters and Brothers Helping Each Other, Gardner, $75,000
Writers, Planners, Trainers Inc., East St. Louis, $75,000
"There are nearly 38,000 people in Illinois living with HIV and AIDS," said Smith. According to IDPH, Illinois ranks sixth nationwide in the diagnosis of HIV infections and ninth in the estimated number of AIDS cases. In 2016, the last year for which complete data are available, there were 1,476 cases of HIV/AIDS diagnosed in Illinois. In Chicago, there are more than 23,500 people living with HIV/AIDSnearly three times the national prevalence rate.
Nirav Shah, director of the Illinois Department of Public Health said nationally, African-Americans are most affected by HIV/AIDS at all stages of the disease, and in Illinois, that population constitutes nearly half of all cases, where the rate of HIV diagnosis remains disproportionally high.
"Our statewide strategy to start bringing an end to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, what we call 'Getting to Zero', is really one that will not be possible without the continued collaboration and partnership of all of the individuals we've worked with over the past few years," said Shah. "This ticket is an example of how we partnered skills with the Lottery to raise money, and joined with the skills of those at IDPH to fund those of you on the ground who are really doing the work of bringing a close to the HIV crisis."
Shah called the 11 recipients of the grant "a record number," and added that he was excited about expanding access to PrEP ( Pre-exposure prophylaxis ), in addition to other services grantees provide.
Modesto Tico Valle, Center on Halsted's CEO, had some personal words to add about the nearly 35-year-old HIV epidemic, saying he does this work to honor those in his life he has lost, including his father and a former partner, and many friends.
"[HIV] is crafty, it is aggressive, and it does not discriminate against anyone, striking at the most vulnerable communities, women, people of color, and the gay community," Valle said. "Today we have hope, we have new life, and we have the tools to bring about a generation free of HIV."
In speaking briefly with Windy City Times, lottery director Smith expressed hope that this year's grant recipients make other organizations with similar missions aware that the grant exists.
"We're very happy to be part of this every year, and I think it actually gives people a chance to understand some of the benefits that Lottery can deliver, not just about funding education, but other specialty organizations that we give profits to," Smith said.