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Instant Lottery Ticket for HIV/AIDS Unveiled
by Amy Wooten

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After overcoming a hurdle last year, the nation's first instant lottery ticket where 100 percent of the net proceeds go towards HIV/AIDS prevention services is now available at Illinois Lottery retail locations.

Illinois Lottery officially unveiled the 'Red Ribbon Cash for Quality of Life' instant lottery ticket Feb. 11 at the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph, after what Illinois Lottery Acting Superintendent Jodie Winnett called a 'very long journey.' Illinois Lottery estimates that the tickets will raise $3 million annually. On Feb. 15, the tickets started being distributed; they were slated to be fully distributed across the state by Feb. 22.

The idea for 'Red Ribbon Cash' happened in a Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus meeting. The measure was passed by the General Assembly in June 2007. It received an amendatory veto by Gov. Rod Blagojevich back in August, causing a bump in the road. However, the veto, which attempted to limit the availability of the tickets, was overridden and became law when it received enough legislative votes in October.

'This is an outstanding day,' said Illinois Deputy Gov. Louanner Peters at the unveiling. 'This is a fight worth fighting.'

Also on hand were U.S. Rep. Danny Davis; several bill sponsors such as State Sen. Jacqueline Collins and State Reps. Greg Harris, Connie Howard and Eddie Washington; and local activists Ida W. Byther-Smith, Marc Loveless, Ben Montgomery and Michael O'Connor.

One hundred percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the tickets—a little over 27 cents per dollar—will fund HIV/AIDS prevention, education and treatment programs. The money will be appropriated to the Illinois Department of Public Health ( IDPH ) , which will award grants to local HIV/AIDS organizations.

Harris, who is HIV-positive, spoke of the activists and local organizations who have been 'working in the trenches' over the years. He feels the 'real beauty' of the ticket is that it will help fund services provided by local HIV/AIDS organizations. 'The real impact is in the small community organizations … that know the folks on the block,' Harris said.

Tickets are available 30 weeks out of the year through Dec. 31, 2012. The top prize is $20,000.

Illinois ranks sixth in the nation for AIDS cases. Also, the face of HIV/AIDS has been changing locally and beyond. Minority populations, such as African-American women, are disproportionately affected. At the event, Collins said she felt a 'moral imperitive' to sponsor legislation for the 'Quality of Life' ticket and push it forward.

'This ticket today is a step forward in mankind and humankind,' said IDPH Director Dr. Damon Arnold..

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