Four Camden County health systems will get a piece of nearly $20 million in state funding for HIV/AIDS treatment in New Jersey, according to an announcement from Gov. Chris Christie's office today.
The Camden Area Health Education Center ($704,642), Cooper Health System ($976,753), the Hispanic Family Center of Southern New Jersey ($250,000) and Our Lady of Lourdes Health Foundation ($138,000) will each receive dollars for HIV counseling, testing and education, medical care and social services.
The money was disbursed following the release of an additional $8 million in federal funding to New Jersey for AIDS and HIV treatment, said Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd in a statement.
More than 36,000 New Jersey residents live with HIV/AIDS, O'Dowd said. Of those, 7,000 are low-income residents who receive medications through a state drug distribution program.
During a press conference Tuesday at the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Brunswick, Christie stressed that progress in treatment and support of people living with HIV/AIDS has turned it from a death sentence to a "chronic disease."
However, the stigma of an HIV/AIDS diagnosis still persists, which deters people from being tested, he said.
"It only becomes that (a chronic disease) if you're treating it," he said.
There are 140 HIV/AIDS testing centers in New Jersey.
The governor also cited a number of other public health priorities of his administration, including treatment instead of jail time for first-time non-violent drug offenders, a $3.5 million increase in funding for cancer screenings and a $1 billion influx of funding for hospitals throughout the state.
"I believe every life is precious," he said, adding that he is able to put his "beliefs and principles into action" while in office.
"I'm attempting to lead by example," he said.