Undetectable=Untransmittable is basis of new prevention strategy
New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has stated his support for New Jersey’s adoption of U=U, Undetectable=Untransmittable, as the state’s approach to dealing with HIV. Most HIV service organizations nationwide support the new strategy.
“We are thrilled that the Murphy administration, at all levels, is committed to furthering scientific approaches that will end the HIV epidemic in New Jersey,” says Kathy Ahearn-O’Brien, Hyacinth’s Executive Director.
New Jersey joins a number of other states in making this declaration of support in its approach to continuing to combat the spread of HIV. The new strategy will help to put an end to the negative stigma associated with an HIV diagnosis. By adopting the U=U campaign in the state public health advocates hope to encourage more testing and an end to the stigma associated with an HIV diagnoses.
According to the Center for Disease Control, when the level of HIV in a person’s blood is so low that it does not show up in a viral load test, it means that the individual is undetectable. When an individual’s viral load is undetectable, they cannot pass on the HIV virus through sexual contact. The continued use of antiretroviral medicines and monitoring of viral load, allows a person to reach and maintain an undetectable status.
New Jersey remains one of the states with the highest number of individuals living with HIV with 821 new diagnoses in 2017. “This is a great first step,” says Ahearn-O’Brien, “but more needs to be done. A concerted effort between the State, community based organizations, people living with HIV and the medical community, will end this epidemic.”
While the latest information from the CDC shows a 20-year low in new cases, populations at greatest risk remain young gay/bisexual men of color and women of color. Union, Mercer, Passaic and Atlantic counties represent the largest number of cases in the state. Equity of care, access to resources, financial and negative stigma are all barriers to knowing one’s HIV status say advocates for those seeking care. With the adoption of U=U, the state hopes to provide more resources for outreach and education and to minimize the barriers to care that they say still exist.
Governor Murphy’s announcement raises awareness that HIV is in fact still at epidemic levels. Advocates say that despite the evolution of prevention and treatment medications available that we must do more if we want to end the spread of HIV. Dr. Shereef Elnahal, New Jersey’s Commissioner on Health, and his team have been working closely with HIV service organizations. Working closely with Hyacinth they have developed a strategy for the state.
Hyacinth AIDS Foundation is New Jersey’s first and largest HIV service organization with seven offices located throughout the State.