Four years ago, the nonprofit organization Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation (LTLT) convinced Illinois legislators to allocate $3 million per year to the group so it could fight HIV/AIDS in African-American communities; it later received $1.2 million through the state’s African American HIV/AIDS Response Fund. However, the Chicago Sun-Times reports, health officials are now questioning $523,545 that LTLT spent on nonessentials such as football seats and five-figure staff bonuses. 

According to the article, the expenses in question include tickets to a skybox for the Chicago Football Classic and bonus payments of $50,000 to executive director Lloyd Kelly and $30,000 to LTLT cosponsor and founder, Representative Connie Howard (D–Chicago).

“They had the same credentials as the AIDS Foundation of Chicago when they started; it’s a nascent organization that needed support,” said Eric E. Whitaker, MD, who headed the Illinois Department of Public Health from April 2003 to October 2007. “Did I have concerns about giving money to a new organization? Sure.”

But, he added, “If you look over the landscape of black-directed HIV organizations, there was no obvious alternative.”

In 2007, LTLT began facing financial difficulty, leading to a $950,000 funding shortfall.  In April of this year, the organization was unable to solicit donations because it had failed to file a report on its 2008 finances. LTLT blames state health officials for the group’s problems, alleging that the health department canceled plans to donate an additional $1.2 million last year.