TRENTON – Senator Joseph F. Vitale, D-Middlesex, Chairman of the Senate Health, Human Services and Senior Citizens Committee and a member of the Governor’s Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS and Related Blood Borne Pathogens, released the following statement in recognition of World AIDS Day which is tomorrow, Saturday, December 1, 2012:
“It has been more than 30 years since the AIDS epidemic hit America. During this time we have been transformed from a country that discriminated against those suffering with HIV/AIDS to a country that treats those living with the disease with compassion and respect. Through preventive measures and awareness we have dramatically slowed the spread of this disease and through research and innovation we have helped those suffering manage the symptoms of the disease. We have made great strides, but there is still much to be done.
“Early identification, diagnosis and treatment of the HIV virus is imperative to slowing the progression of the disease, reducing the risks of spreading it to others, and providing long and normal lives to those living with HIV/AIDS. In New Jersey, we have taken big steps to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS by creating the needle exchange program and allowing New Jersey pharmacies to sell hypodermic syringes and needles without a prescription. Twenty-two percent of HIV/AIDS victims in New Jersey acquire the disease through intravenous drug use and access to clean, safe needles and treatment can help us significantly reduce New Jersey’s AIDS epidemic. We must make the needle exchange program permanent and expand it throughout the state.
“World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remember those we have lost due to this disease and reconfirm our commitment to stopping the spread of AIDS for future generations. This year’s theme – ‘Working Together for an AIDS-Free Generation’ – is within our grasp here in New Jersey, across the country and around the globe. On World AIDS Day, I encourage all New Jersey residents to get tested for HIV, because knowing your status is the best way to end this epidemic once and for all.”