The New Jersey Department of Health is marking Thursday as the 19th Annual National Black HIV Awareness Day by urging African American residents to take proactive steps to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS and encouraging all New Jersey residents to play a role in reducing stigma about HIV.
“HIV stigma stops many individuals from taking the first step of getting tested, that is why it is important for providers to make routine testing for HIV/AIDS a priority for all patients,” said Health Commissioner Shereef Elnahal. “Increased testing will increase detection rates and reduce stigmas, especially within minority communities.”
There are more than 37,000 people living with HIV in New Jersey. African Americans represent more than half of those currently living with HIV/AIDS in the state.
Assistant Commissioner Christopher Menschner, HIV, STD, TB Services, on Feb. 5th, joined Rev. Dr. Stanley Justice, New Jersey Human Development Corporation CEO, and Shakirah Abdul Ali, Trenton Health and Human Services Director, at the NJDHC annual National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day observance to discuss the Department’s efforts in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New Jersey.
This event was held at the War Memorial in Trenton. The NJHDC is a non-profit organization of the African Methodist Episcopal Church that provides communities with knowledge, skills and services to help prevent and control HIV.
“While there is still work to be done, New Jersey has made significant progress in in reducing the incidence of HIV because of success in getting people tested for HIV and linked to treatment,” said Elnahal. “The number of new HIV/AIDS cases among African American residents decreased 36 percent from 2007 to 2016.”
The Department distributed nearly $46 million last year to support HIV prevention and care services including a statewide network of 31 Pre-exposure prophylaxis Counselor Programs, nurses in syringe access programs who provide access to reproductive care and HIV Services, and Awareness campaigns encouraging New Jerseyans to regularly test for Sexually Transmitted Infections.
Individuals in the PrEP program prevent infection by taking a pill every day. New Jersey PrEP counselors who work in HIV clinics, federally qualified health centers, community-based organizations that serve gay and bisexual men, and other sites around the state. Just last week, Governor Murphy announced that PrEP counseling will begin this year at New Jersey’s family planning clinics.
The funding also supported testing and services for those living with HIV or at risk for the disease. More than 79,000 free, confidential rapid HIV tests were administered at more than 170 locations. Approximately 4,586 patients received HIV-related medications through the New Jersey AIDS Drug Distribution Program in 2018.
CDC recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested at least once, and those at higher risk should be tested at least once annually. Healthcare professionals should offer an HIV test as part of routine care.
Officials say in December, New Jersey signed on as the ninth U.S state to declare Undetectable = Untransmittable. UequalsU or U=U is a global campaign led by the Prevention Access Campaign to spread awareness about how effective HIV medications are in preventing the sexual transmission of HIV.
The Department’s Pre-exposure prophylaxis program was established in 2016 to provide biomedical prevention services to individuals who are at substantial risk of acquiring HIV.
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.