State Senator Jacqueline Y. Collins (D-16th) has introduced legislation that will allow Illinoisans to continue to play the Quality of Life scratch-off lottery game after the end of 2012. The “Red Ribbon Cash” game has raised over $2.4 million for prevention education and treatment. If Senate Bill 2971 becomes law, it will continue to fund the fight against HIV/AIDS for five additional years.

“Four years after the legislature voted to fund organizations on the front lines of HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, the number of new infections has decreased nationwide, but this devastating disease is still ravaging vulnerable communities, particularly minority women,” Sen. Collins said. “The proceeds from the Quality of Life scratch-off game are helping non-profits save and prolong lives in the populations with the highest risk and we should allow these groups to continue their vital work.”

In Illinois, 53.4 percent of new AIDS diagnoses in 2009 were among African-American residents, although only 14.5 percent of Illinois’ total population is black. More than four times as many African-American women are living with HIV in Illinois as white women, and three out of four women in Illinois diagnosed with HIV in 2009 were black.

Currently, the Illinois Lottery Commission, through its existing vendors, can sell instant scratch-off tickets, the proceeds of which are deposited into the Quality of Life Endowment Fund, which is kept separate from the state’s general revenues. The Quality of Life Board then awards the money in the fund to qualified non-profit organizations. Half of the money earned from the games must go to groups with annual budgets of less than $300,000. Grant recipients must be engaged in prevention education or treatment of HIV/AIDS, and they must serve a population at a heightened risk of contracting HIV or developing AIDS.

Sen. Collins, Representative Karen Yarbrough (D-7th), Representative Greg Harris (D-13th), Representative Thaddeus Jones (D-29th), and others held a press conference today to commemorate National African American HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and to discuss measures, like extending the Quality of Life scratch-off game, that will empower African-Americans and others in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

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