The New Jersey Department of Health is recognizing Feb. 7, 2021 as National Black HIV Awareness Day by urging African American residents to take proactive steps to protect themselves from HIV and encouraging all New Jersey residents to play a role in reducing stigma about HIV.
“New Jersey has made great progress in reducing the burden of HIV, yet African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected, representing nearly half of the more than 38,000 people in the state living with HIV/AIDS,” said Health Commissioner Judy Persichilli.
Over the past ten years, African Americans have made up approximately 40 percent of new HIV diagnoses, compared to 20 percent among whites.
“It is important that we continue to double down on our efforts to end the HIV epidemic especially among our most vulnerable populations,” added Commissioner Persichilli.
Between 2009 and 2018, HIV/AIDS diagnoses among African Americans in the state declined by over forty percent. HIV/AIDS diagnoses among African American females reduced by nearly fifty percent.
In 2018, the Murphy Administration pledged to end the HIV epidemic in New Jersey by 2025. As part of this effort, the Department has been working with partners to promote vital services, such as HIV testing, linkage to care, PrEP*, nPEP*, *spell out acronym on first mention and HIV medications that are effective in preventing the acquisition and transmission of HIV.
On February 5, Christopher Menschner, Assistant Commissioner of HIV, STD, and TB Services, joined the New Jersey Human Development Corporation for their virtual National HIV/AIDS Awareness Day observance to discuss the Department’s efforts in ending the HIV/AIDS epidemic in New Jersey. 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.
The Department distributed nearly $47 million last year to support HIV prevention and care services including a statewide network of 31 Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) Counselor Programs, nurses in seven harm reduction centers and seven local health departments who provide access to reproductive care and HIV services, along with awareness campaigns encouraging New Jerseyans to regularly test for Sexually Transmitted Infections (STI).
The funding also supported testing and services for those living with HIV or at risk for the disease.
Despite having to temporarily close or modify services 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.
Approximately 5,700 patients received HIV-related medications through the New Jersey AIDS Drug Distribution Program in 2020.
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.
“We must emphasize the need for HIV service providers to be community-centered, non-judgmental, guided by harm reduction principles, and use a variety of engagement strategies to ensure that the needs of our black community are met,” said Kaleef S. Morse, Executive Director, HIV Services at the Department. “We have to work together because we’re in this together! “
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.
The Department’s PrEP 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.
To learn more about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/awareness/nbhaad.html
Follow the New Jersey Department of Health on Twitter @njdeptofhealth, Facebook /njdeptofhealth, Instagram @njdeptofhealth and Snapchat @njdoh.