A Community-Wide HIV Rapid Testing Initiative

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The Counties of Passaic and Bergen, New Jersey are a melting pot of cultures from around the world. The Counties boast a broad diaspora of individuals from Latin American countries including Mexico, Puerto Rico, Peru, and the Dominican Republic. Over 50% of the populations are Hispanic. The cites are also home to a thriving African American community that accounts for approximately 33% of the population. The remaining population includes people with heritage from Europe, the West Indies, Native American nations, and the Middle East.

Unfortunately, the Counties of Passaic abd Bergen have also been the home of a growing epidemic of HIV/AIDS. This health crisis disproportionately impacts minority communities nationally, and Paassaic or Bergen are no exceptions. African Americans make up only 12% of the United States population but represent over 50% of the HIV cases and Latinos account for only 13% of the population but represent 21% of all persons living with HIV in the state of New Jersey.

With new cases of HIV in New Jersey at approximately 2000 per year, and over 30,000 people already living with the virus, identifying all persons living with HIV is a major public health priority for our state. The New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services, Division of HIV/AIDS Services has supported a statewide campaign to bring as many people, particularly those at highest risk, in for testing with the newly approved 20-minute HIV Rapid Tests. With its large minority population, including a substantial population of individuals outside of the healthcare system, the Counties of Passaic and Bergen present an opportunity to test a significantly at risk population in a defined geographic area.

Currently, the Counties of Passaic and Bergen have many different locations that citizens can go in and get tested for HIV. With new testing available that only requires a 20-minute non-invasive test, many individuals are getting tested but many more are unaware of the testing sites, the severity of the disease and the means by which it is spread.

Our initiative will combine Existing Rapid Test Providers and outreach workers, with additional resources from Passaic County Community College, St. Paul’s Community Development Corporation, the New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services- Division of HIV/AIDS Services, Abbott Laboratories, The Paterson Division of Health, the AIDS Education and Training Center at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, CASA, Inc., the Mayors office, and any other groups or organizations that would like to become a partner with this Citywide Initiative.

The goal of this project is to reach out to as many of the citizens of the counties of Passaic and Bergen, through TV, Press, Flyers, and Outreach and educate all on the seriousness, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of HIV disease. The initiative will begin in earnest over the summer of 2005 with surveys being done at local Summer Festivals; directing people for testing at local community sites and will conclude with a week long testing event throughout the city in October of 2005.

To get involved simply contact the Mayors Office on AIDS at (973) 321-1234 ext.6.