February 8, 2005
The yearlong campaign targets African-American and Hispanic women, who are disproportionately affected by the disease. According to the state health department, 63 percent of HIV-infected women in New Jersey are black, and 18 percent are Hispanic. At least 32,000 people in the state are living with HIV/AIDS, and about half of them are unaware of their HIV status, Health Commissioner Fred M. Jacobs said while announcing the campaign at Newark's St. Michael's Medical Center.
The health department is spending $3 million on OraQuick Rapid HIV-1 Antibody tests for the initiative. The finger-stick blood test, which has been available since 2003, is 99.6 percent accurate and gives results in around 20 minutes. Positive results are confirmed by an additional test that is more specific and takes three days to deliver results.
Testing efforts in the past were hampered by the standard HIV test, which takes longer to analyze because it is done in batches and is very labor-intensive, said Dr. Stephen Smith, head of the infectious disease department at St. Michael's. "People would work up the nerve to go the site for the test, but not to come back" days or weeks later for the result, said Smith. "[The OraQuick test is] really great," he said. "It tells a negative person not to worry about having the disease, but we can talk to them about the risk factors, and dispel myths on how the virus is spread." St. Michael's has tested 1,944 with the Rapid HIV test -- more than any other publicly funded testing site in New Jersey.