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IL lawmakers seek to extend lottery ticket to benefit AIDS awareness

Sen. Jacqueline Collins is opposed to gambling, but she finds herself temporarily changing her stance in order to fight a disease that has plagued African American communities like the ones she represents on the South Side of Chicago.

Collins (D-Chicago), the sponsor of a Senate bill joined forces with Illinois House Representatives Karen Yarbrough (D-29th) and Greg Harris (D-13th) last month in Springfield to propose an extension of the “Sunset” date for the Quality of Life HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention fund, which is referred to as the “Red Ribbon Cash” lottery ticket. The lottery ticket was slated to expire on December 31, 2012, but if Gov. Pat Quinn signs the new legislation the sunset date will be extended to Dec. 31, 2017.

“The goal is to increase education and awareness for the people of color,” said Collins. “I’m very passionate about everything, but this impacts the health, well-being and quality of life

English: The Red ribbon is a symbol for solida...
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needs for all my constituencies.”

The bill originally passed in 2007 by Collins and Yarbrough called Quality of Life Lottery “scratch off.”  Since 2007, 100 percent of the proceeds have gone to fund organizations that are on the frontline of HIV/AIDS prevention, education and treatment.

In order for the bill to reach Quinn, it must first make it out of its first assignment, which is the Revenue Committee. If it passes that assignment, it will go to the house floor for debate, and if agreed on the floor it passes to Quinn’s office. If Quinn approves, the bill becomes a law in 90 days.

The organizations will include the Chicago Black Men’s Caucus, Project VIDA, the AIDS Legal Council, Asian Human Services, the Cook County Department of Health and Hospitals, Brothers Health Collective and the Phoenix Center. This year, the Illinois lottery will look to fund 14 community-based organizations across the state.

Illinois has the seventh highest number of AIDS cases in the United States. Nearly 75 percent of the new HIV cases exist among African-American females in 2010, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health. There is an estimated 46, 000 Illinoisans are living with HIV/AIDS, and African-Americans make up 55 percent of the reported HIV/AIDS cases in Illinois.

“Most cases of HIV have somewhat decreased nationwide, but there is an increase in communities with the people of color,” said Collins.

The Quality of Life Fund is the only self-generating revenue-funding statue of its kind in the United States. In 2011, the Red Ribbon Cash scratch-off game generated $1.4 million for HIV/AIDS prevention and care for Illinoisans.

Despite generating $1.4 million in gross revenue last year, some say the Illinois lottery needs to strategize a better way to earn more money because there is more revenue to be earned.

“The Illinois lottery needs to come up with a better marketing strategy for this ticket so they can raise more money,” said Ben Montgomery, formerconstituent services administrator for United States Rep. Danny Davis (D-7th). “We were blessed to get the $1.4 million across the state, but we can do better especially if the lottery includes minority media outlets for specialty tickets.”

Montgomery also said that the lottery has to target communities that are mostly impacted, which are people of color.

Collins, Yarbrough, Harris and Montgomery have worked closely to advance and extend the bill until 2012.

Yarbrough, a Maywood native became involved because of high cases in Cook County, which show that 9,713 HIV/AIDS cases have taken place since 2005, according to Illinois Dept. of Health.

“I decided to advance the bill because the numbers were so high, and the ones mostly impacted were the people of color, and it is even higher for African-American women,” said Yarbrough.

Despite having the disease plaguing African-Americans at an alarming rate, State Representative Harris has lived with HIV/AIDS since 1988 and he wants everyone to go and get help.

“I want to be sure folks in every community have a local organization that is sensitive to the community and have cultural needs where they can go and get help,” said Harris. “Yarbrough and Collins are the lead sponsors, and I am doing whatever they need me to do in order to help people understand how important this legislature is.”

Harris also added that HIV isn’t covered in the media today like it once was but everyone knows somebody who is impacted by it and the problem isn’t going away soon.

“We need care and prevention for young people and we need care for people who need it for themselves because it costs money and this goes to help people in the community,” said Harris.

Collins represents communities such as Ashburn, Auburn Gresham, West Englewood, Oak Lawn, Justice, Hometown, Hickory Hills, Bridgeview, West Chatham, and Worth.

Since 2005, those areas have combined for more than 14, 000 people living with AIDS, according to Illinois Dept. of Health.

Regardless of her opposition against Gambling, Collins acknowledged that there was no money due to the budget deficit of the state, and they decided to create their own revenue stream to allow funding and resources for people who are suffering from HIV/AIDS.

“This was about being preventive and it’s a matter of being proactive,” said Collins.

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