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For Release:
September 14, 2006

Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D.

For Further Information Contact:
Nathan Rudy

Commissioner Jacobs Accepts ASTHO "Vision Award" For New Jersey's Rapid HIV Testing Program


The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Service's swift and successful implementation of its Rapid HIV testing program was honored with the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials (ASTHO) "Vision Award" at their 2006 Annual Meeting in Atlanta, Georgia today.  The "Vision Award" is given annually to outstanding state health department programs and initiatives.


"We are proud to receive the 2006 Vision Award from ASTHO," said Dr. Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS).  "But we are even more proud to have implemented a program that helped tens of thousands of our residents learn their HIV status."


New Jersey has a high prevalence of HIV/AIDS, ranking fifth in the nation for total cases, third in the nation for total pediatric cases, and first in the nation in proportion of AIDS cases in women.  To address this, the DHSS developed a program to expand low-cost Rapid HIV testing to publicly funded testing and counseling sites to help slow the spread of the disease.


In November 2003, the first site for Rapid HIV testing opened in New Jersey.  Within two years there were more than 100 fixed locations and 10 mobile vans performing the tests throughout the state.  Today there are 164 sites in 18 counties serving the people of New Jersey, supported by an annual DHSS Rapid HIV testing budget of $9.2 million.


The Department also engaged in a series of innovative marketing efforts to boost the number of people utilizing the Rapid HIV tests at publicly-funded clinics.  The media campaign included radio spots, bus ads and direct contact at beauty salons in the communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS.  The media campaign increased the number of people taking the test by 42.2 percent over other comparable periods.


In notifying DHSS of the award, ASTHO wrote, "This innovative program will serve as an outstanding example to the public health community and will encourage replication of such initiatives in other states."  DHSS has committed to helping other state health departments that wish to implement similar programs.


The Rapid test is important in decreasing the spread of HIV because it overcomes a major obstacle in HIV testing. Getting the results in 20 minutes means people no longer have to wait one or two weeks and return to the testing site to receive their results.


In 2003, before Rapid HIV testing was available, New Jersey’s publicly funded counseling and testing sites performed 67,941 HIV tests. Of those, 23,230 people—or 34 percent—never returned to the testing site for the results.   With the Rapid HIV test, clients receive their results 99.3 percent of the time.  As a result, more than 25,000 additional New Jerseyans learned their HIV status.


"The strategy is to make it convenient for people to be tested, placing both the testing facilities and the counseling services in communities throughout the state at a very low cost," said Dr. Jacobs.  "Our goal is to remove as many obstacles as possible so that every person is aware of their status and living a safer, healthier, longer life."


The DHSS partnered with private hospitals, emergency departments, community health centers, service organizations, and the UMDNJ-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School to expand and manage the Rapid HIV testing program.  Hospitals and clinics generally manage the consultations with patients both before and after results are known.  The Robert Wood Johnson Medical School manages and serves as the laboratory director for the vast majority of the laboratories performing the tests, significantly reducing the cost to local clinics and standardizing equipment and performance across the state.


"We would not have seen this kind of success in the Rapid HIV testing program without our partners in the health care community," said Commissioner Jacobs.  "It is a true partnership of public and private entities dedicated to making a difference in reducing health care disparities and protecting the public health."


For more information on Rapid HIV testing in New Jersey, visit or call the New Jersey HIV Helpline (1-866-HIV CHECK).

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