July 3, 2013

We’d be remiss not to mention that this past Thursday, June 27th was National HIV Testing Day. We believe that knowing your HIV status is everything! Not just on National Testing Day, but every day is an opportunity to take a step forward, and be a part of helping stem the spread of HIV. Why is it important to know your status? Because the earlier you know your status, if you are positive, the sooner you can get into counseling and referral and gain access to treatment. In Newark, there are many places to get private and confidential testing in under 20 minutes, including NJCRI (www.njcri.org), the African American Office of Gay Concerns (www.aaogc.org), and St.Michaels Medical Center (http://www.smmcnj.org/services.html) to name a few.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that African Americans, overall, accounted for an estimated 44% of all new HIV infections in 2010, despite being only 44% of the US population. In particular, African American men accounted for 70% of new infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans with African American women at nearly 30%. The latest published statistics show that Essex County has the highest number of Persons Living With HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in New Jersey at 9,644 cases as of 2010. According to the Campaign For A Healthier New Jersey, in Newark, one in 30 African Americans is living with HIV/AIDS.

According to a March 2012, Star Ledger article (http://www.nj.com/news/index.ssf/2012/03/hiv_infection_hot_spots_remain.html), a study presented at the 19th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Seattle found HIV incidence rates among women in select U.S. cities, including Newark, have reached levels seen in sub-Saharan Africa. The study, which sampled 2,000 mostly African American women in Newark, Atlanta, Baltimore, Washington, New York City, and Raleigh-Durham, N.C., found the HIV incidence rate was five times the current federal estimate for black women overall.

Once diagnosed, gaining access to healthcare (physical and mental) and navigating the social service system can be intimidating. Further, understanding the new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare”, and what that means if you’re HIV positive, can be daunting. On June 2012, the US Supreme Court ruled to uphold the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. However the Courts ruled that states that do not comply with ACA expansion of Medicaid to individuals up to 138% of federal poverty (around $15K for an individual) cannot lose federal funding for the entire Medicaid program. Therefore people living in states who refuse to comply would be left out of the new health care system.

Health reform is critical to people with HIV. An estimated 1.2 million people are living with HIV in the US and need access to high-quality, uninterrupted health care to stay healthy, reduce new HIV infections and cut long-term health care costs. Research clearly shows that with early access to HIV treatment, people with HIV stay healthier longer and are 96% less likely to transmit others (when viral load suppression is achieved). What can you do? For starters, find an HIV testing site near you. Head over to the CDC’s website at http://hivtest.cdc.gov/, type in your zip code, and check out the results. Don’t wait.

At Leadership Newark, we are as concerned as you are about the health and well being of Newark’s citizens. That’s why healthcare will also be presented in a substantive manner within the core policy deliberations on education, economic recovery and crime and public safety public at the first-ever Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit on November 2nd, 2013.

Stay updated on the Leadership Newark Public Policy Summit by joining our email list. Go to www.leadershipnewark.org and sign up. We will continue to announce new developments on our Facebook (leadershipnewark) and Twitter (@leadershipnwk) over the coming months.

Join us and continue to dare to be great!