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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
May 26, 2005

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

For Further Information Contact:
Lillian Pfaff
(609) 777-4666
Jennifer Wagner
(212) 453-2441


 
State Brings Rapid HIV Testing Campaign to Hair and Beauty Salons to Reach African-American and Latina Women


 

TRENTONMay 27, 2005 – The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services (NJ DHSS) is launching a community-based HIV public awareness campaign designed to deliver messages of education and prevention to African-American and Latina women who may be at risk for infection. At the center of the campaign is a free, rapid HIV test that provides results in 20 to 40 minutes.

“A blood test is the only way to know for certain whether or not you have HIV,” said Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs, M.D., J.D., “Same day test results mean you don’t have   to wait one to two weeks to learn your HIV status. Medical treatment is highly effective when HIV is diagnosed early, and we are reaching out through community organizations and neighborhood businesses to increase awareness of the importance of getting tested.”

“Hair and beauty salons are a hub of social activity in many of the communities where women are most at risk. We want to reach women where they will be comfortable discussing the issue – or where they are likely to pick up a brochure and consider calling our rapid HIV hotline,” said Laurence E. Ganges, NJ DHSS Assistant Commissioner, Division of HIV/AIDS Services.

Throughout the months of May and June, HIV outreach workers are distributing hundreds of kits containing condoms, nail files, and HIV educational pamphlets to beauty salons in New Jersey cities with the highest prevalence of HIV and AIDS.  These cities include Atlantic City, Newark, Jersey City, Irvington, Trenton, Camden, Elizabeth, and Plainfield. Each item in the kit is marked with a toll-free number, 1 (866) HIV-CHECK (1-866-448-2432), that individuals can call for more information on how to get the free Rapid HIV test.

Eighty-one percent of women living with HIV in New Jersey are African American or Latina.  The disparity in the infection rate, intensifies the need to make African American and Latina women aware of the risks of HIV, how to protect themselves from infection, and the need to be tested early. 

Danielle Bush, counselor and coordinator at North Jersey AIDS Alliance in Newark encourages everyone who is sexually active to take advantage of the free Rapid HIV test. “I have been in this field a long time and this is one of the most accurate tests we’ve ever had, and now you don’t have to wait and worry. The sooner you know, the sooner you can get treatment. You can do something to empower yourself.”

“Beauty salons are popular and important places in the community where African American and Latina women regularly visit,” says Danielle Bush, “These businesses are a natural focal point of this campaign.”

Mary Lou Freund, coordinator of the testing and counseling department at Henry J. Austin Health Center in Trenton, said women often don’t seek testing. “A lot of women I meet do not believe they could possibly have HIV,” Freund says. “They think avoiding intravenous drugs and sex with multiple partners keeps them safe.” Today most women get HIV/AIDS through heterosexual contact with an infected partner. Even women in monogamous relationships can be at risk.

Approximately 45,000 people in New Jersey are living with HIV/AIDS, and between 10,000 - 15,000 people do not know they are infected.  New Jersey ranks fifth in the nation for incidence of HIV/AIDS cases.  By getting tested, women can take the appropriate steps to protect their health.

Trained counselors are available at all sites to meet with each individual who is tested. Counselors will discuss ways to reduce the risk of becoming infected and explain the next steps for those who test positive. Counselors will also explain the need for additional testing for people who have tested negative but who have had recent exposures to HIV.

Nearly 18,800 people have already taken the test in one of 57 locations in 14 counties around the state since the Department first began offering the test in November 2003.

To get information about the free Rapid HIV Test in your area, call the toll-free number, 1-866-HIV-CHECK.

 
 
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