TRENTON — Saturday, Dec. 1, marks the 25th Anniversary of World AIDS Day, a time to remember those who died, pay tribute to those living with HIV/AIDS and highlight the advances in treatment and prevention since the disease was first diagnosed.
The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Getting to Zero,” meaning no HIV/AIDS-related deaths, discrimination or barriers to care.
“After more than 25 years of research and medical improvements, HIV/AIDS is no longer the certain terminal illness it once was,” said Health Commissioner Mary E. O’Dowd. “In fact, with early diagnosis through testing, HIV/AIDS can be effectively managed, ensuring those impacted can live long and healthy lives. I urge residents to get tested and know their status.”
Currently, more than 36,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in New Jersey. Approximately 105,000 HIV tests were performed at 140 HIV testing sites last year. Testing sites, which are located in all 21 counties, include community organizations, hospitals, health departments, community health centers and other health care facilities. A list of rapid testing sites in New Jersey is available at: http://www.state.nj.us/health/aids/rapidtesting/location.shtml.
“There is good news to report in the fight against HIV/AIDS in New Jersey,” noted O’Dowd. “Due to advancements in treatment and improved access to HIV/AIDS medications, there has been a 70 percent decline in the annual number of new cases of HIV/AIDS between 1990 and 2010. Additionally, in 2010, only four infants in New Jersey were born HIV-positive, a drop of 86 percent since 2000.”
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested for HIV at least once. If you are at increased risk for HIV, you should be tested for HIV at least once a year.
Earlier this week, the CDC reported that 26 percent of new HIV/AIDS cases occur in young people between the ages of 13 and 24; and that 60 percent of this population is unaware they are infected. Nearly 60 percent of new infections in youth occur in African Americans, about 20 percent in Hispanics/Latinos, and about 20 percent in whites. Nationally and in New Jersey, one in five living with HIV are unaware they are infected.
In New Jersey, in 2011, 16 percent of all newly reported cases were among the 13-24 year-old age group. Of these cases, 66 percent were African American, 25 percent Hispanic and 8 percent were white. Over half, (52%) were exposed through men having sex with men.
“A future free of HIV/AIDS is within sight, however we must do more to lower the infection rate among young minorities and other high-risk groups that are not getting tested and are unknowingly spreading the illness,” said Dr. Arturo Brito, Deputy Commissioner of Public Health Services. “New Jersey women are also disproportionately affected: 34 percent of those currently living with HIV/AIDS are female; and 54 percent of this population is between 20-49 years of age.”
Today, as part of World AIDS Day, Dr. Brito is taking part in the Eighth Annual World AIDS Day Extravaganza at Newark Symphony Hall. The event is sponsored by the NJ Stop AIDS Coalition and the North Jersey AIDS Alliance.
Activities and events commemorating World AIDS Day are taking place across New Jersey. A calendar of events is available at: http://web.doh.state.nj.us/apps2/aids/events.aspx .
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