STATE – Dec. 1 marks the 24th anniversary of World AIDS Day – a time to reflect on the impact of HIV/AIDS and advancements in its treatment. Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd also took the opportunity to encourage everybody to learn their HIV status and take steps to improve one’s health.
The theme of the 24th anniversary of World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero.” This means a time when there are no HIV/ AIDS-related deaths, no HIV/AIDS-related discrimination and no barriers to HIV prevention and treatment. More than 35,000 New Jersey residents are living with HIV. Many people with HIV are unaware they may have the disease.
Dr. Arturo Brito, M.D., MPH, the Department’s Deputy Commissioner for Public Health, will be attending the “Getting to Zero” Worlds Aids Day Commemoration on Friday, December 2 at 3:30 p.m. at the Trinity Cathedral in Trenton. Other groups around the state have planned a variety of activities, including health fairs, HIV testing services, AIDS Memorial Quilt displays and memorial services.
The Division of HIV, STD, and TB Services’ efforts to reduce mother-to-child HIV transmission are examples of “Getting to Zero.” With the development of medications to treat HIV disease and improvements in obstetrical and pediatric care for children born to mothers with HIV, New Jersey has reduced the number of infants born with HIV from 77 children in 1993 to 2 to 5 children annually for the past few years. Nationwide, mother-to-child HIV transmission has decreased by 95%.
“Prevention and early detection are the key strategies needed to slow disease transmission and help individuals to live longer, healthier lives,” said Dr. Brito. The Department encourages all health care providers to offer testing to patients from ages 13 to 64. HIV testing should be included in the prenatal screening tests for all pregnant women. Knowing one’s HIV status allows an individual to take measures to improve his or her own health and protect the health of others.
Rapid HIV testing is available at more than 170 sites statewide. Testing requires either a drop of blood from a finger stick or a sample taken from a swab in the mouth with results available in less than 30 minutes. DHSS funds rapid testing sites that perform 105,000 tests each year. Those who test HIV positive are referred the same day for treatment at one of 15 early intervention sites. Supportive services are also available at these sites, such as financial assistance with AIDS medications or health insurance.
“Testing is especially critical in New Jersey’s minority communities as 78% of all persons living with HIV/AIDS are members of minority groups,” added Commissioner O’Dowd.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates 1.2 million people in the United States (US) are living with HIV. Although the number of people living with HIV in the U.S. is increasing, the number of new infections has remained the same—but is still too high with 50,000 new cases nationally each year.
HIV/AIDS in New Jersey:
Since the HIV/AIDS epidemic, more than 75,000 cases of HIV/AIDS have been diagnosed in New Jersey. Injection drug use and sexual contact are the major ways that HIV/AIDs is transferred from person to person. Nearly 80 of those living with HIV/AIDS are 40 years of age or older. 34% are female; 58% of females living with HIV/AIDS are currently 20-49 years old. The average number of annual pediatric infection in 2000-2008 is 84% lower than it was in 1993-1999.
For more information on HIV/AIDS, visit the Department’s website at www.nj.gov/health/aids, or call the DHSS AIDS hotline at 1-866-HIV-CHECK (1-866-448-2432).
More information on World’ AIDS Day can be found at www.worldaidscampaign.org
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