Zufall Health Awarded More than $650,000 to Confront the HIV Epidemic in Essex County
Zufall Health’s HIV Services program is implementing a new, status neutral system of HIV care in Essex County, New Jersey, thanks a grant of more than $650,000 from the New Jersey Department of Health’s Division of HIV, STD, and TB Services. The grant program, Comprehensive Status-Neutral HIV Services for Focus Populations, is part of the state’s efforts to elevate HIV strategy in line with efforts to end the epidemic nationally. A status neutral approach engages all patients in quality, comprehensive, person-centered prevention and care regardless of their HIV status (e.g., HIV-positive, unknown, or HIV-negative).
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), which can progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) without treatment, is still considered an epidemic in the U.S. HIV has a disproportionate impact on gay and bisexual men, transgender women, youth ages 13-24, and communities of color. There were more than 30,000 new cases reported in the U.S. in 2020 and, of the 1.2 million people currently living with HIV, it’s estimated that one in seven are not aware of their HIV status. Learn more about HIV/AIDS from the CDC.
Zufall has for more than a decade provided a full range of HIV services including outreach, testing, medical care, dental, and behavioral health care, nutrition counseling, and linkage to housing and legal services to vulnerable patients in New Jersey.
“Because Zufall offers many of these services in house, HIV Services patients can access uninterrupted, quality care without leaving our health center,” said Chevonne Cato, MPH, Program Director, HIV Services.
Zufall has until now, been unable to provide the full spectrum of HIV care to patients in Essex County, home to its West Orange location, where rates of HIV infection are the highest in the state. Essex County has also been identified as one of the 57 highest-priority areas nationwide where efforts to end the HIV epidemic are focused. About two thirds of Essex County’s population earn incomes at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level, 42 percent identify as Black/African American and 24 percent identify as Latinx/Hispanic. Roughly 16 percent of working-age adults do not have health insurance.
Zufall will reduce barriers to HIV care in West Orange and surrounding communities using the following initiatives:
- Extended HIV Services hours at Zufall-West Orange
- Hiring new staff to provide infectious disease care, case management, and community outreach
- Providing access to Pre-exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and Non-Occupational Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (nPEP)
- Distributing information at community events and on social media to provide education and reduce stigma
- Spanish-speaking support groups for people impacted by HIV
- Referrals to dental care
- Linkage to housing, legal, and food access resources
The expanded services coincide with the 2023 opening of Zufall’s new West Orange facility. The 15,000-square-foot building at 49 Mount Pleasant Avenue will provide additional clinical space to help Zufall better serve its HIV Services patients.
“Health outcomes for people affected by HIV in the U.S. have improved so much since the 1980s and 1990s, when the virus was newer and less understood. New therapies prevent infection and transmission, and help people live longer, healthier lives,” Cato said. “Thanks to the NJDOH funding, we will be able to make new tools and resources available to our patients in Essex County.”