- In an effort to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and intensify efforts
to fight AIDS in the African-American community, the New Jersey
Department of Health and Senior Services has begun Project IMPACT
in Atlantic City, one of the cities hard-hit by the epidemic, according
to acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D.
"The HIV epidemic is a critical public health issue for the
African-American community. One in every 73 African-Americans in
our state is living with this disease," Dr. DiFerdinando said.
"African-American leaders and the community have already done
much hard work in the face of this terrible epidemic. Now, we're
supporting them in taking their efforts to the next level, with
comprehensive, city-wide approaches to the fight against AIDS."
City is the first city to undertake Project IMPACT (Intensive Mobilization
to Promote AIDS Awareness through Community-Based Technologies)
this year. Trenton, Newark and East Orange will begin later this
year or early next year. The project will be phased in in six other
cities - Jersey City, Camden, Paterson, Elizabeth, Irvington and
Plainfield - over the next two years.
goal of Project IMPACT is to galvanize and support African-American
community leaders to play an even greater role in preventing the
spread of HIV in their communities. The state is funding the project
this fiscal year with about $2.7 million in state and federal money.
city's program will be shaped by a community coalition composed
of residents, health care providers, community leaders, and a wide
range of religious leaders, including those already participating
in the department's statewide FAITH (Families Acquiring Information
Together on HIV/AIDS) Initiative. The coalitions will also enable
community groups to strengthen partnerships and find more ways to
reach people at risk for HIV.
Atlantic City, coalition members have chosen to conduct a media
campaign to raise HIV awareness and encourage testing in the African-American
community as part of their overall effort. The campaign will feature
radio and print ads, billboards and other materials in an effort
to blanket the community with information about the epidemic, prevention
coalition and the department will also hold a series of town meetings
later this year to get community members' ideas about ways to improve
HIV-related service delivery in Atlantic City.
"In Project IMPACT, we want to get family members talking to
each other, friends talking to friends, and religious leaders talking
to their congregations about this epidemic," said Gloria Rodriguez,
D.S.W., assistant commissioner for the Division of AIDS Prevention
and Control. "We need to break the stigma associated with HIV
and with getting tested. Only when you know your HIV status can
you take advantage of life-extending medical treatments."
key goal of Project IMPACT is to ensure that the 10 cities in the
project have the necessary core of HIV prevention and treatment
services targeting African-Americans. They include: outreach to
people at-risk for HIV; HIV counseling and testing services; one-on-one
health education and risk-reduction training sessions for at-risk
people; drug detoxification for injecting drug users; case management
linking the HIV-positive person to needed services; long-term support
for both HIV-positive and -negative people in maintaining safe behaviors;
and support for infected people trying to adhere to complex treatment
many of the 10 targeted cities have many of these services, there
are gaps, according to Dr. Rodriguez. Some cities operate mobile
vans that treat people not getting regular medical care. Atlantic
City does not offer that service and, through Project IMPACT, will
receive the funding to do so.
project also aims to place these services in non-traditional locations
where people will have easier access, and to ensure that existing
services are as user-friendly as possible for people in the community.
Through the FAITH Initiative, a number of African-American ministers
have been trained to offer HIV counseling and testing in the churches.
part of Project IMPACT, Atlantic City will receive $830,000, Newark/East
Orange will receive $450,000 and Trenton will get $600,000. The
remaining money will be used for programs that will be implemented
in all IMPACT cities, and for overall program evaluation.
New Jersey Women and AIDS Network will receive $268,000 for Sister
Rise/Sister Connect, a peer outreach program for HIV-positive African-American
women to serve as mentors to other positive women and to help them
adhere to their medical treatments. Participants will also help
educate women in the community about HIV disease. Up to $300,000
will be granted to the New Jersey Human Development Corporation,
a non-profit corporation of the First Episcopal District of the
African Methodist Episcopal Church. This money is for Family-to-Family,
a program to strengthen family bonds, connect families to the larger
community and ultimately prevent HIV transmission.
City, Camden and Paterson will join Project IMPACT next July, and
Elizabeth, Irvington and Plainfield will join in July 2003.
As of June 30 of this year, 42,275 AIDS cases and 15,911 HIV cases
have been reported to the state. African-Americans account for 56
percent of the people ever diagnosed with AIDS, and 57 percent of
the people living with HIV/AIDS.