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News Release

   PO 360
   Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

   For Release:
   October 5, 2001

George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., MD, MPH
Acting Commissioner

For Further Information Contact:
Laura Otterbourg or Marilyn Riley
(609) 984-7160

DHSS Announces Project IMPACT
to Prevent and Treat HIV/AIDS in the African-American Community

TRENTON - In an effort to raise HIV/AIDS awareness and intensify efforts to fight AIDS in the African-American community, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services has begun Project IMPACT in Atlantic City, one of the cities hard-hit by the epidemic, according to acting Commissioner George T. DiFerdinando, Jr., M.D.

"The HIV epidemic is a critical public health issue for the African-American community. One in every 73 African-Americans in our state is living with this disease," Dr. DiFerdinando said. "African-American leaders and the community have already done much hard work in the face of this terrible epidemic. Now, we're supporting them in taking their efforts to the next level, with comprehensive, city-wide approaches to the fight against AIDS."

Atlantic City is the first city to undertake Project IMPACT (Intensive Mobilization to Promote AIDS Awareness through Community-Based Technologies) this year. Trenton, Newark and East Orange will begin later this year or early next year. The project will be phased in in six other cities - Jersey City, Camden, Paterson, Elizabeth, Irvington and Plainfield - over the next two years.

The goal of Project IMPACT is to galvanize and support African-American community leaders to play an even greater role in preventing the spread of HIV in their communities. The state is funding the project this fiscal year with about $2.7 million in state and federal money.

Each city's program will be shaped by a community coalition composed of residents, health care providers, community leaders, and a wide range of religious leaders, including those already participating in the department's statewide FAITH (Families Acquiring Information Together on HIV/AIDS) Initiative. The coalitions will also enable community groups to strengthen partnerships and find more ways to reach people at risk for HIV.

In Atlantic City, coalition members have chosen to conduct a media campaign to raise HIV awareness and encourage testing in the African-American community as part of their overall effort. The campaign will feature radio and print ads, billboards and other materials in an effort to blanket the community with information about the epidemic, prevention and treatment.

The coalition and the department will also hold a series of town meetings later this year to get community members' ideas about ways to improve HIV-related service delivery in Atlantic City.

"In Project IMPACT, we want to get family members talking to each other, friends talking to friends, and religious leaders talking to their congregations about this epidemic," said Gloria Rodriguez, D.S.W., assistant commissioner for the Division of AIDS Prevention and Control. "We need to break the stigma associated with HIV and with getting tested. Only when you know your HIV status can you take advantage of life-extending medical treatments."

One key goal of Project IMPACT is to ensure that the 10 cities in the project have the necessary core of HIV prevention and treatment services targeting African-Americans. They include: outreach to people at-risk for HIV; HIV counseling and testing services; one-on-one health education and risk-reduction training sessions for at-risk people; drug detoxification for injecting drug users; case management linking the HIV-positive person to needed services; long-term support for both HIV-positive and -negative people in maintaining safe behaviors; and support for infected people trying to adhere to complex treatment regimens.

While many of the 10 targeted cities have many of these services, there are gaps, according to Dr. Rodriguez. Some cities operate mobile vans that treat people not getting regular medical care. Atlantic City does not offer that service and, through Project IMPACT, will receive the funding to do so.

The project also aims to place these services in non-traditional locations where people will have easier access, and to ensure that existing services are as user-friendly as possible for people in the community. Through the FAITH Initiative, a number of African-American ministers have been trained to offer HIV counseling and testing in the churches.

As part of Project IMPACT, Atlantic City will receive $830,000, Newark/East Orange will receive $450,000 and Trenton will get $600,000. The remaining money will be used for programs that will be implemented in all IMPACT cities, and for overall program evaluation.

The New Jersey Women and AIDS Network will receive $268,000 for Sister Rise/Sister Connect, a peer outreach program for HIV-positive African-American women to serve as mentors to other positive women and to help them adhere to their medical treatments. Participants will also help educate women in the community about HIV disease. Up to $300,000 will be granted to the New Jersey Human Development Corporation, a non-profit corporation of the First Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. This money is for Family-to-Family, a program to strengthen family bonds, connect families to the larger community and ultimately prevent HIV transmission.

Jersey City, Camden and Paterson will join Project IMPACT next July, and Elizabeth, Irvington and Plainfield will join in July 2003.

As of June 30 of this year, 42,275 AIDS cases and 15,911 HIV cases have been reported to the state. African-Americans account for 56 percent of the people ever diagnosed with AIDS, and 57 percent of the people living with HIV/AIDS.

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Department of Health and Senior Services
P. O. Box 360
Trenton, NJ 08625-0360

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