Today is the 18th annual National Black HIV Awareness Day.
New Jersey Department of Health officials are marking it by encouraging African-American residents to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their community from HIV/AIDS.
“New Jersey has been making great progress in reducing transmissions of HIV with medical advances in HIV prevention and treatment methods,” said Acting Commissioner Dr. Shereef Elnahal. “However, minority communities are disproportionately affected, and while African-Americans are 15 percent of New Jersey’s total population they represent 50 percent of those currently living with HIV/AIDS in the state.”
There are more than 37,000 people living with HIV in New Jersey.
While there is still work to be done to ensure everyone knows how to protect against HIV, significant progress is being made within the black community. African-Americans are more likely than other races and ethnicities to report that they have been tested for HIV at least once: 68 percent versus 55 percent for Hispanics and 37 percent for whites, based on data from the New Jersey Behavioral Risk Factor Survey.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 be tested at least once, and those at higher risk should be tested at least once annually. Healthcare professionals should offer an HIV test as part of routine care.