As we mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day today, February 7, we must remember that while significant progress has been made in reducing HIV transmission, New Jersey’s Black residents continue to be disproportionately impacted by this disease.
“Although Black residents comprise 13 percent of the state’s population, they represented nearly half of the 38,470 residents living with HIV/AIDS as of June 2021,” New Jersey Health Commissioner Judith Persichilli said.
“Over the last decade, 45.4% percent of new HIV diagnoses were among Blacks, compared to 18.48% percent among Whites. As we continue working to end the HIV epidemic by 2025, we must also remain focused on reducing long-standing health disparities and improving HIV prevention and care to people who need it most.”
In New Jersey, 18,457 Black residents are living with HIV as of June 2021. Since the state began tracking this data, 27,074 Black residents have died of HIV/AIDS.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 gets tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care and that those at higher risk get tested at least once a year.
Despite that some services were temporarily closed or modified as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 23,000 individuals have been tested for HIV since the pandemic began in March 2020.
And approximately 5,700 patients received HIV-related medications through the New Jersey AIDS Drug Distribution Program in 2020.
Nationally, Black people accounted for 13% of the U.S. population but 40% of people with HIV in 2019, according to the CDC.
A CDC report published Thursday found 52% of Black adults with diagnosed HIV resided in areas in the country with higher Social Vulnerability Index (SVI) scores—often residentially segregated communities comprised predominately of Black people.
The report underscores the continuing, urgent need to address the social determinants that contribute to disparities.
In November 2021, NJDOH released a strategic plan to end the HIV epidemic in New Jersey within the next five years.
A Strategic Plan to End the HIV Epidemic in New Jersey by 2025 focuses on addressing disproportionate rates of HIV among Black and other people of color.
The plan represents the state’s commitment to end the HIV epidemic by 2025 and sets the following goals:
- Reduce the number of new HIV infections by 75%
- Promote access to testing, so 100% of individuals living with HIV know their status
- Promote access/linkage to care, so 90% of those diagnosed with HIV are virally suppressed
NJDOH’s Division of HIV, STD, and TB Services (DHSTS) has implemented a new statewide grant program in January 2022 that will bring the state’s overarching HIV strategy in line with national best practices, which are key to ending the HIV epidemic.
This program supports the development and implementation of high quality, customer-centered, culturally appropriate, and trauma-informed Comprehensive Status-Neutral HIV Services for Focus Populations most affected by the HIV epidemic under the “Engagement and Linkage to an Intentional and eXceptional Intervention, Re-imagined (ELIXIR)” framework developed by Ka’leef Stanton Morse, Executive Director of HIV Services.
To support the development of a competent workforce with the knowledge and skills necessary to provide culturally responsive and appropriate services, DHSTS has partnered with Jefferson Health and the Northeast/Caribbean AIDS Education and Training Center (NE/CA AETC) to create the HIV Training and Capacity Development (TACD) Program as part of the HIV Community Support and Development Initiative (HCSDI).
The mission of the TACD Program is to develop and implement a comprehensive training program to support ending the HIV epidemic in New Jersey.
The Murphy administration has noted harm reduction expansion as a key part of its opioid epidemic response strategy.
Harm reduction expansion also stands to further stop the spread of HIV among people who inject drugs.
New Jersey currently has seven Harm Reduction Centers, which provide harm reduction counseling and supplies to prevent and reduce the transmission of HIV and other blood-borne diseases and prevent overdoses.
New Jersey facts:
- Nearly 80 percent of persons living with HIV/AIDS are 40 years of age or older.
- Minorities account for 77 percent of adult/adolescent HIV/AIDS cases ever reported to the state, and 79 percent (79.4%) of all persons living with HIV.
- Thirty-one percent of those living with HIV/AIDS are females; 34% of females living with HIV are currently 20-49 years old.
- Eighty-eight percent of pediatric cases living with HIV/AIDS belong to minority races/ethnicities.
The Department’s PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) program, established in 2016, provides biomedical prevention services to individuals who have behaviors that put them at high risk for HIV acquisition.
For information on PrEP counseling or HIV testing sites, visit https://www.nj.gov/health/hivstdtb/hiv-aids/getting-tested/index.shtml or call 1-800-624-2377.