State Rep. LaShawn Ford (8) would like to see more participation from some of the city’s medical community concerning his new HIV screening bill, which went into effect June 1.

Ford sponsored the HIV initiative, House Bill 980, which allows people the option to give verbal consent to be tested for HIV instead of the mandatory written consent.

The state representative said the written consent prevents some from allowing themselves to be tested, usually declining to sign the form. A training session on the new law for doctors and other medical professionals took place on Wednesday at 15th District Police headquarters, 5701 W. Madison. Interest in the session was not as high as Ford would have liked.

The training session was co-sponsored by the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center.

“The great thing about this law is that it eliminates the need for patients to field a litany of questions just to request HIV testing,” said Ford. “Now they don’t need to answer personal questions about their sexual past in order to be tested. They can just request and receive. This makes it all the more likely that they will be tested.”

Ford added that the Austin and the greater West Side has among the highest cases of HIV infection in the city. According to the most recent data by the City Department of Public Health, the AIDS rate among blacks in Chicago was more than double the rate for whites and Hispanics in 2005. Austin, along with other West Side communities, including North Lawndale and East and West Garfield Park, also had higher AIDS rates than Chicago as a whole.

But an even more troubling aspect is those who don’t know their HIV status, Ford noted.

The law is in effect at health care facilities and clinics throughout Illinois. The measure will also require facilities to provide patients with pre-and post-test counseling so they are aware of their options if they tested positive.

Patients will still need to consent to the testing in writing, but it will be part of their general treatment consent form at the hospital. The bill had support from the AIDS Foundation of Chicago (AFC) and the Illinois Department of Public Health. The law only applies to health care facilities and providers, such as clinics and hospitals, and does not apply to mobile testing sites, such as HIV testing vans.

The bill passed in the Illinois House unanimously 114-0. It passed in the Senate 59-0. Gov. Rod Blagojevich signed the measure into law in June of last year.

The bill did face initial opposition by some in the House, however; some arguing that the original draft of the measure violated certain “confidentiality” laws in the state.

“The original version of the bill did draw criticism from groups concerned that it could lead to doctors giving patients HIV tests without their consent, Ford said. “The final version of the bill eliminates barriers to testing while increasing penalties for violations to patients’ privacy. For example, it includes harsher fines for physicians violating patients’ privacy.”

 

For more information about the day and HIV/AIDS, visit www.hhs.gov/aidsawarenessdays.

Free Meals
The Greater Chicago Food Depository provides free meals to children age 18 and younger this summer at the following sites:

Agape Youth Development, 3355 W. Jackson; Association House, 1116 N. Kedzie; Austin YMCA, 501 N. Central; Beatrice Caffrey Youth Services, 4924 S. King Dr.; Breakthrough Urban Ministries, 3330 W. Carroll; Casa Central, 1343 N. California; Casa Juan Diego Youth Center, 2020 S. Blue Island; Elliott Donnelley Youth Center, 3947 S. Michigan; Rebecca Crown Youth Center, 7601 S. Phillips; Chicago Lights at Fourth Presbyterian Church, 126 E. Chestnut; Gary Comer Youth Center, 7200 S. Ingleside; Instituto del Progreso Latino, 2570 S. Blue Island; Lafayette School Union League Boys and Girls Club, 2714 W. Augusta; Lawndale Community Church, 3843 W. Ogden; Little Black Pearl, 1060 E. 47th; Monroe School, 3651 W. Shubert; Mozart School, 2200 N. Hamlin; Marillac House, 212 S. Francisco; Miguel Barretto Union League Boys and Girls Club, 1214 N. Washtenaw; The Miracle Center, 2100 N. Kildare; North Lawndale YMCA, 3449 W. Arthington; Perspectives Charter School, 1930 S. Archer; Rhema Community Development, 5460 W. Ohio; San Lucas, 2914 W. North; Sullivan House, 8164 S. Chicago; Union League Boys and Girls Club One, 2157 W. 19th; Walls Memorial Church, 200 S. Sacramento; West Side Health Authority, 5437 W. Division; Will Feed Community Organization, 6455 S. Peoria; Young Men’s Educational Network, 1241 S. Pulaski.

Children need not be enrolled in the after-school Kids Cafe program to participate in the Summer Food Service Program. For more information, contact the Greater Chicago Food Depository at 773/247-3663.

Do you know your HIV status?

Friday June 27, is National HIV Testing Day. Chicago is among the host cities for the Day. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, an estimated 250,000 people in the United States have HIV but are unaware of it. The department also reports that blacks are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. Representing just 13 percent of the U.S. population, blacks account for nearly 50 percent of the country's AIDS cases. AIDS is also the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34, and the second leading cause of death for black men ages 35 to 44.