A Better Normal

Leaders' Letter

As we reflect on the past year, we are reminded of our logo design, the imperfect circle. People Who Care, A Chicago-based creative firm, developed the logo to honor the legacy of AFC’s more than 35 years of service and a bold future we envision, which will end the HIV epidemic in Illinois by 2030. In many ways, 2021 was like our logo design, reflecting our continued legacy and making strides toward a better normal.  

AFC created a better normal through systemic and organizational change, including the creation of AFC’s Racial Equity Action Plan, launching the Ge­tting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL) community grants program and dashboard and leading advocacy for a state law that decriminalized HIV transmission.

The shared focus of our staff and community was unwavering as we dealt with the turmoil of COVID-19; a crisis that was exacerbated by the inequities throughout our state, our country and our world. We must remember that we lost several community members including staff, board members, partners and advocates. We also lost transgender women of color to senseless violence perpetuated by transphobia, misogyny and racism. Despite the difficulty of 2021, we see a vision of a brighter day, which is informed by our past and our dreams. That for us is not just a new normal, but a Better Normal.

John Peller and Craig Johnson standing side by side smiling into the camera

With gratitude,

John Peller, President and CEO and Craig W. Johnson, Board Chair

Advancing Health Equity

“We know that many organizations across the state are helping us get to zero but might not have adequate funding to further their work. The GTZ-IL Community grants aided the creation of transformative projects that advance health equity and our plan to end the HIV epidemic in Illinois.”
John Peller headshot
John Peller
President and CEO

AFC worked to increase access to high-quality, comprehensive prevention, care and housing services free from stigma.

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Provided individualized support to more than 6,000 clients through case management. 

*Combined data with AFC and its Center for Housing and Health clients


2,036 people had a place to call home because of AFC and its subsidiary organization, Center for Housing and Health.


Obtained housing and health care for 95 clients enrolled through the Road to Health and Housing program — a clinically focused program for clients with mental health issues and co-occurring conditions. 


Worked to locate 1,839 people who were disconnected from their health insurance and helped them reconnect to care through the AFC program, CommunityLinks.


AFC’s supporting organization the Center for Housing and Health permanently housed 563 individuals through the Flexible Housing Pool, a program that assists residents experiencing homelessness find stable housing of their choosing.

Safe and Sound Return Partnership

AFC’s Safe and Sound Return Partnership (SSRP) continued its work to eliminate barriers for more than 100 returning citizens (people released from prison and jail) living with HIV and AIDS by providing key resources normally out of reach such as job training. A new partnership with RiseKit, a community-based platform powering economic mobility programs, allowed SSRP to bolster its employment resources in 2021.

1,785 calls to the HIV Resource Hub hotline

$767,410 in emergency rent and utility support

3,823 Food vouchers to 943 clients

The HIV Resource HUB, a citywide service run by AFC and the Center on Halsted, received and responded to 1,785 hotline calls. The HUB provides health education and connections to vital resources for people living with HIV and those who are HIV-negative and on PrEP such as housing, treatment, PrEP and emergency financial assistance including COVID-19 relief. 

AFC distributed $767,410 in rent, utility payments and other areas of support and also provided 3,831 food vouchers to 946 clients. 

Preventing New Cases of HIV

"Navigating healthcare sucks. Yeah, it often sucks. The HIV Resource HUB can change that."
Roman Buenrostro headshot
Roman Buenrostro (1967-2021)
Director of Special Projects

Without access to a home, income and other resources, it’s difficult for anyone to remain healthy and thrive. That’s why in 2021, AFC continued to focus on the social determinants of health to prevent new cases of HIV.

0 % undetectable

AFC’s case management system connects individuals to vital resources like medical care: 83% of AFC’s more than 5,500 case management clients living with HIV have an undetectable viral load — meaning their treatment is successful, and they cannot pass HIV sexually to their partners.


Facilitated the first GTZ-IL grant program, which awarded $350,000 total in one-time grants up to $30,000 to 14 organizations working to end the HIV epidemic.

Getting to Zero Illinois (GTZ-IL)

In 2021, GTZ-IL established its first Community Advisory Board (CAB) to help lead implementation of the plan. The CAB spent the year getting to know each other and setting a foundation that will allow all members to grow as leaders for years to come. GTZ-IL also launched a comprehensive data dashboard, a tool that allows the state to measure our progress to get to zero.The dashboard allows partners, providers, advocates and others to find specific information and visualizations on the HIV Care Continuum and Social Determinants of Health throughout the state.

Longtime LGBTQ+ leader, activist Román Buenrostro passes away

Remembering AFC Board Member Gary B. Beringer, Dr. P.H.: loving husband, man of science, epidemiologist

Bold Voice for Change

“With the stroke of the governor’s pen today, people living with HIV can now breathe a sigh of relief knowing that our medical condition will no longer be criminalized.”
Tim Jackson headshot
Timothy Jackson
Director of Government Relations

AFC transformed systems and policies by mobilizing advocates and people living with HIV or chronic conditions.

10 State Legislative Wins

During the 2021 Illinois Spring Legislative Session, AFC prioritized and advocated for the legislature to pass 10 pieces of legislation in partnership with and through the leadership of organizations and coalitions across Illinois. One of those bills was HB1063, which repealed the state’s harmful and outdated “Criminal Transmission of HIV” statue that criminalized people living with HIV who are aware of their status and engage in condomless sex without disclosing their HIV status to their partner. Other notable legislation included the Keeping Youth Safe and Healthy Act (SB818), which ensures public schools across Illinois provide comprehensive, evidence-based sexual health education and services, as well as the Inclusive Data Collection bill (SB2133), which expands demographic data collection by hospitals and state agencies. Together, these laws push us closer to a more equitable Illinois.  

Pride Action Tank (PAT)

In late 2019, Howard Brown Health partnered with PAT to get community input on a social services facility it will be building on the South Side of Chicago. PAT’s engagement included: developing and managing a steering committee made up of South Side leaders, facilitating community engagement and input activities and presenting a report of findings to Howard Brown. In 2021, PAT completed the assessment and released the report.

Launched the Editor’s Desk Blog Series

The online series shares knowledge and reflections that come up while managing AFC storytelling to create a new dialogue, resource-sharing and added transparency behind our editorial decisions.


More than 746 people visited the online GTZ Data Dashboard since its launch.


Advocated for the Illinois legislature to pass 10 bills.


256 people were meaningfully engaged in PAT’s South Side Needs Assessment.

70 interviews and stories published to AFC news/blog to advance health and racial equity

Discover our Inside Story Blog at aidschicago.org/news.

Bailey Williams headshot

The Editor’s Desk: Why we created a community-informed style guide

By Bailey Williams


How Judy has used empathy and advocacy to embrace living with HIV

By Ella Shapiro

How telehealth services have made it easier for Milani to attend therapy

By Bailey Williams

Roy Ferguson in Washington DC

How Roy found new purpose through advocacy

By Ella Shapiro

Serving as a Collaboration and Knowledge Center

"This work is not new for us. Since AFC’s founding in 1985, we’ve continually innovated our programming and services to better serve Black and Latinx communities."
Dr. Cynthia Tucker headshot
Cynthia Tucker
SVP of Community Partnerships and Special Projects

AFC continued as a thought leader and resource center, creating and sharing best practices, innovations and models.


8 organizations

AFC’s Learning Circle Collaborative provided capacity building, technical assistance and grants, including CDC vaccine grants, totaling $72,000 to eight Black-led organizations:

AFC supported fundraising efforts of the Learning Circle Collaborative agencies by organizing a fundraiser with individual supporters to generate revenue for the organizations. AFC also hosted a virtual meet-and-greet with several major foundations to help cultivate new relationships between the agencies and the funding community.   

17 covid-19 webinars

AFC staff produced 17 webinars as part of the Grand Rounds’ series that explored various topics related to COVID-19. Amidst constant change, the series provided 2,100 learners steady access to trustworthy information from subject matter experts.

70 organizations

More than 70 organizations received grants or contracts from AFC.

Abstracts, published articles and presentations

Coleman Goode, Manager of Community Organizing, published an article in The American Academy of HIV Medicine’s HIV Specialist on HIV Decriminalization in Illinois. Kennedy Bradley, Community Outreach and Education Specialist, presented an abstract on Getting to Zero Illinois at the United States Conference of HIV/AIDS (USCHA). Peter Toepfer, Sr. VP of Housing, presented at USCHA about HOPWA (Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS). Anthony Guerrero, HIV Resource Coordination HUB Manager, Brandi Calvert, Senior Director of Housing Operations, Jennifer Jimenez, Director of Systems change, and Bashirat Olayanju, VP of Care, presented about lessons learned with the HIV Resource HUB at USCHA, Midwest LGBTQ+ Health Symposium and National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors Meeting on HIV, STIs, and Tuberculosis.

Dr. Cynthia Tucker, Sr. VP of Partnerships, did an oral presentation and poster respectively on “Interventions for Improving Employment Outcomes for Justice-Involved People Living with HIV/AIDS” at the American Public Health Association (APHA) and at the 2021 National Coalition for Correctional Healthcare; and a poster on “Addressing Critical Gaps in Public Health Training: An Evaluation of a Community-Academic Training Program for HIV/AIDS Organizational Leaders” at the Annual Meeting of the Consortium of Universities for Global Health.

L’Oreal Bailey, Sr. Manager of Special Projects, and Tamika Foust, Prevention Employment Specialist, presented on AFC’s Employment Specialist of Community Partnerships and Special Projects at the Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity Professional Development Panel on HIV and Reentry. L’Oreal Bailey presented at the National Conference on Correctional Health Care Conference. Jessie Beebe, Director of Integrated Health Programs, Nora Bouacha, Sr. Manager of Research and Evaluation,and Andrea Dakin, Sr. Director of Shared Program Services, presented on “Piloting a Client Behavioral Health Screener with HIV Case Managers: Challenges, Successes and Next Steps” at the 33rd National Conference on Social Work and HIV. Nora Bouacha presented a poster for Safe and Sound Return Partnership at the APHA Annual Meeting and Expo by Silvia Valadez-Tapia, Sr. Research and Evaluation Specialist, Nora Bouacha, Dr. Cynthia Tucker, Amanda Peters and L’Oreal Bailey on “Comparison of Expected Stigma and Self-Stigma among Non-Justice-Involved and Justice Involved People Living with HIV/AIDS.”

Andrea Dakin presented on the Behavioral Health Screener/ORCHID to academics and health professionals on “Development of an Implementation Facilitation Strategy for Mental Health Screening and eHealth Intervention for Clients in Ryan White-funded Clinics in Chicago” at Michael M. Davis Lecture, Center for Health Administration Studies, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice. Andrea Dakin and Nora Bouacha presented two posters for the Behavioral Health Screener/ORCHID study with Northwestern University and University of Chicago researchers at the International Association of Providers of AIDS Care and the 14th Annual Conference on the Science of Dissemination and Implementation in Health.

Silvia Valadez-Tapia and Juan Reyes presented two posters for Proyecto Luz on “The influence of fear: Stigma and Immigration Status on HIV Testing for U.S. Documented and Undocumented Latinx Immigrants” at the National Association of County and City Health Officials 360 Virtual Conference and at the National Latinx Conference on HIV/HCV/SUD. Jim Pickett and Silvia Valadez-Tapia did two oral presentations on Empowering PrEP4Teens: “Youth to Create Their Own Social PrEP Marketing”, at USCHA and at the Midwest LGBTQ Health Symposium.

Strengthening our Organizational Excellence

"AFC had many assets to support the work, including leadership who was willing to undergo this process despite the inherent discomfort and the necessary surrendering of power and resources that come with this work."
Mary Morten headshot
Mary Morten
President of Morten Group, LLC

AFC strove to expand staff and board effectiveness and to center our work in racial equity, diversity and inclusion.

Racial Equity Action Plan

Fulfilling the promise made in 2020, AFC spent 2021 interrogating ways to achieve racial equity within its spheres of influence. With the guidance of national consultancy Morten Group LLC, AFC developed a three-year Racial Equity Action Plan that was co-created by a group of staff of all levels, genders, races, ethnicities and ages. 

Though the plan officially commenced in 2022, AFC began some of the work in the prior year. AFC increased the stipends for all interns, promoted Black and Latinx staff and made our hiring practices more equitable by including salary ranges with all job descriptions. In addition, we continued to diversify our board: more than 60% of AFC’s board members are now people of color.

Looking ahead, AFC is committed to releasing a dashboard where our clients, community members, advocates and donors can view the progress AFC is making on each racial equity action goal in real-time. 

Notable Staff Achievements

AFC’s leaders and staff continued to elevate our organizational excellence in 2021. Timothy Jackson, AFC’s Director of Government Relations, was honored on the 2021 POZ 100 list, which celebrated Black advocates. Two of AFC’s leaders–AFC’s Board Chair Craig Johnson and AFC’s Vice President of Operations Tom Menard–were recognized amongst Crain’s Chicago Business 2021 Notable LGBTQ Executives list. 


More than 1,700 participants raised $440,000 (net) through AIDS Run & Walk — $235,244 was distributed in grants to 26 CommunityDirect partners, providing supportive resources including housing and case management to people living with HIV across Chicagoland. 


226 athletes raised more than $200,000 (net) through Team to End AIDS.

AFC FY21 budget

AFC Revenue: $35,242,718 
AFC Expenses: $34,621,140 

Click here for full financial information.

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