HIV in New Jersey

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HIV statistics in New Jersey have greatly improved over the past decade, with the rate of new diagnoses and death rates decreasing rapidly. According to the New Jersey DOH, there are currently more than 37,000 people, or one out of every 235 New Jerseyans, living with HIV/AIDS. Although the annual number of newly diagnosed patients continues to decrease as noted above, in 2017 alone, over 1,100 people were newly diagnosed with HIV in New Jersey.

When AIDS was first identified in the 1980s, it was predominantly in the male, homosexual population. In the 30 years since, this population still remains at-risk. Male-to-male (MTM/MSM) sexual contact is the most common route of transmission in the nation, accounting for approximately two-thirds of newly diagnosed HIV cases nationwide in 2017. This is followed by heterosexual contact (close to 24%) and injection (6%).

In New Jersey, 55 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases in 2017 were through MTM sexual contact. While lower than the national proportion of approximately 66 percent, MTM sexual contact is the only category of transmission that has experienced an increase in its proportion from 2008 to 2017. In 2008, only 43 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases were through MTM sexual contact.

Compared to the nation as a whole, New Jersey has a higher proportion of transmissions from both heterosexual contact (33%) and injection use (11%). However, unlike MTM sexual contact, these proportions have been decreasing over the past decade. The proportion of newly diagnosed cases transmitted heterosexually decreased from 36 percent in 2008 to 33 percent in 2017, while injection cases decreased from 17 percent in 2008 to 11 percent in 2017.

Injection cases, although the smallest proportion, are found at a higher rate in New Jersey versus nationwide. CHART examined data from the New Jersey DOH regarding living HIV cases by county. Living HIV cases are those diagnosed at any point between 1990 and 2018, and not deceased as of Dec. 31, 2018. The maps below show the percentage of living cases by county for the following categories of transmission: injection use, heterosexual contact, and MTM sexual contact.

As of 2018, approximately 15 percent of living HIV cases in New Jersey were transmitted via injection. The top three counties with the highest proportion of injection cases are located in the southern part of the state – Atlantic (22.6%), Cape May (21.6%) and Cumberland (20.3%) counties. Higher-than-average rates are also observed in shore counties (Monmouth -18.1% and Ocean - 18.0%) and northwestern New Jersey (Warren – 18.3%). These findings echo data from CHART’s October 2018 report A Broader View, which identified growing hospital use rates for mental health and substance use services in the southern and northwestern parts of the state.