Annual HIV Event “LoveFest” Cancelled
Government Funding Issues Play a Major Role in Decision
(Chicago, IL – August 11, 2014) Due to unforeseen government funding issues, the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC) is disheartened to announce that it will not host its annual HIV testing event, LoveFest, scheduled for Sunday, August 24th.
LoveFest, CBGMC’s flagship event, is an annual summer “edu-tainment” festival designed to increase awareness of sexual health and wellness management among Black gay and bisexual men. The event offers free testing for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections, as well as additional screening for general health issues affecting Black men. With live entertainment, dancing, and physical fitness activities, LoveFest has attracted more than 500 participants every year for the past nine years.
“We are deeply saddened that we are not able to deliver this very important event that has become a staple within the Black LGBTQ community,” stated Ronald Wadley, CBGMC board chair. “The board and staff of CBGMC have worked diligently for months to plan this event and to learn of the loss of pertinent funding was certainly unexpected. We want to thank all volunteers, supporters and community organizations for their unwavering support and assistance in the LoveFest planning process.”
LoveFest is funded through a variety of community partnerships and a grant awarded to CBGMC through the African American AIDS Response Fund (AAARF), administered through the Illinois Department of Public Health. CBGMC learned that it was re-funded for the new cycle of the AAARF grant in June to begin July 1st. Two weeks into the new grant cycle, CBGMC and other funded organizations were notified that the funds were actually not available.
“We simply did not have the capacity nor enough time to raise the funds left by this devastating blow,” stated Ramon Gardenhire, chair of CBGMC’s Policy and Advocacy committee. “This funding mishap significantly impacts the work that African American HIV/AIDS service organizations are doing to curb the rising rates of infection in our state.”
Black men who have sex with men (BMSM) continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV in Chicago. Recent surveillance data suggests that more than twice as many new infections occurred among BMSM than White or Hispanic MSM during the same time period. The cancellation of this year’s LoveFest is a missed opportunity to continue to engage this vulnerable population about risks and protective strategies for HIV, as it is one of the key programs in Chicago where BMSM can receive preventative health care services and information in a nurturing and affirming environment at no cost. “With the ever increasing numbers of new HIV cases among Black MSM, all appropriated governmental funding sources should be made readily accessible to organizations that are specifically working with our community,” continued Gardenhire.
CBGMC remains committed to offering preventative health care, positive peer support, and community mobilization for the Black gay and bisexual communities. Next year, CBGMC will be celebrating its 10th anniversary and programming plans are underway to include LoveFest 2015.
About the Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus
Chicago Black Gay Men’s Caucus (CBGMC), a nonprofit organization, was established in 2005 to improve the lives and well-being of Black gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Since its inception, CBGMC has taken strategic action towards accurately identifying the HIV burden among Black MSM in Chicago, understanding the underlying causes of risk and acquisition, and identifying solutions to curb the epidemic in Chicago. CBGMC’s primary goal is to decrease new HIV infections through creative and collaborative programming that promotes HIV testing, education and risk reduction activities.