President's pal under investigation; AIDS program part of probe

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The Chicago Sun-Times reported Sunday that President Barack Obama's pal Dr. Eric Whitaker is being investigated by a federal grand jury regarding several health awareness programs and "faith-based initiatives" that received funding from the Illinois Department of Public Health during Whitaker's time there.

One of the programs he's being called into question for is the Let's Talk, Let's Test Foundation, an HIV and AIDS awareness nonprofit on Chicago's South Side.

The Chicago Reporter did an extensive investigation of the foundation in its January/February 2009 special issue about HIV and AIDS in Illinois' black communities.

In its research, the Reporter found that the foundation received the largest grant made possible by the Illinois African-American HIV/AIDS Response Fund, created in 2006 to earmark money for black-run HIV nonprofits. Lloyd Kelly, the foundation's executive director, was a key player in developing the fund. But in May 2008, after receiving more money from the state, the Illinois Department of Public Health started questioning how the money was spent. This led to the foundation being audited by the Illinois Auditor General.

Illinois state Rep. Connie Howard, the foundation's sponsor in the house, and Kelly have been subpoenaed as part of Whitaker's investigation.

In the Sun-Times report, Whitaker defended his work with various agencies including the foundation, but said he had reservations about "giving money to a new organization."

Last week, the Reporter blogged about the county releasing HIV and AIDS numbers, whereas the city, to date, has not posted data about the same period.

--Ashley Mouldon


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