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PO Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

For Release:
September 26, 2005

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

For Further Information Contact:
Nathan Rudy
609-984-7160


 
DHSS Works to Expand Rapid HIV Test Availability Throughout NJ


 

The Department of Health and Senior Services (DHSS) announced today a strategy to dramatically increase the availability of Rapid HIV testing for underserved communities throughout the New Jersey.  The announcement, made during a Minority and Multicultural Health Month health fair at Eric B. Chandler Health Center in New Brunswick, is part of a multi-pronged strategy to expand HIV/AIDS awareness and testing in communities throughout the state.

 

"The first step in halting the spread of HIV/AIDS is to ensure that as many people as possible know their status and are counseled on proper care and prevention," said DHSS Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs. M.D., J.D.  "We stand ready to assist any community health center or clinic as they expand the availability of Rapid HIV testing in underserved communities."

 

Many community clinics currently offer Rapid HIV testing one or two afternoons a week.  All community primary health clinics should expand access to Rapid HIV testing.  DHSS will assist clinics throughout the state by offering free training opportunities on the clinical and counseling aspects of the Rapid HIV test.  Participants will receive certification from DHSS and be able to perform the test at their clinic as needed.

 

The two clinics currently participating in the program are the Eric B. Chandler Health Center and the Joseph S. Yewaisis Outpatient Center at Raritan Bay Medical Center in Perth Amboy.  The clinics are training enough staff members to offer the Rapid HIV test five days a week, and will receive resource support from the DHSS to hire additional staff.

 

"As part of Minority and Multicultural Health Month, I am encouraging every community health center and clinic to increase their Rapid HIV testing," said Dr. Jacobs.  "If we are going to reduce incidence of HIV/AIDS we must have this fast, effective testing technology readily available to everyone."

 

HIV/AIDS is the number one killer of African American women between the ages of 18 and 34. Sixty-three percent of women living with HIV in New Jersey are African American and 18 percent are Latina.

 

Earlier this year, the DHSS began a campaign to increase awareness of free Rapid HIV tests among African American and Latina women, two populations who are disproportionately affected by the HIV/AIDS pandemic.  The $2 million campaign, called "The 20 Minute Test," is part of a concerted effort by Governor Codey and the DHSS to increase the number of people who know their HIV status and reduce the transmission of AIDS in New Jersey.

 

Today's health fair is sponsored by the University of Medicine and Dentistry-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, Hyacinth Foundation, the DHSS Office of Minority and Multicultural Health, and Johnson and Johnson.  The event will feature Rapid HIV testing by the Hyacinth Foundation's mobile testing unit, blood pressure screening, healthy living handouts and promotional items for the public as part of the DHSS Healthy Communities for a Healthy New Jersey campaign.

 

The Rapid test is important to slowing the spread of HIV because it overcomes a major obstacle in HIV testing. Getting the results in 20 minutes means people no longer have to wait one or two weeks and return to the testing site to get their results.

 

The test requires less than a single drop of blood from the fingertip. The fingertip is cleaned with alcohol and pricked with a needle to get a small drop of blood. Blood is transferred to a small plastic vial containing a solution. The test device is then inserted into the vial. The results can be read in as little as 20 minutes.

 

Ninety-nine percent of people who take the Rapid HIV test stay to receive their results.  Since the media campaign began in February, 14,495 people have taken the Rapid HIV test and the number of people who received their test results increased by 18 percent.  This is directly because more people are taking the Rapid HIV test as opposed to the test that requires a two week wait.

 

In 2003, before Rapid HIV testing was available, New Jersey’s publicly funded counseling and testing sites performed 67,941 HIV tests. Of those, 23,230 people—or 34 percent—never returned to the testing site for the results.

 

The test is also available to women in labor who do not know their HIV-infection status. If the Rapid HIV test results are positive, women can receive immediate therapy which could reduce the risk of HIV transmission to their baby by 50 percent.

 

For more information on rapid HIV testing, visit www.state.nj.us/health/aids/rapidtesting or call the New Jersey HIV Helpline (1-866-HIV CHECK).

 

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