On this, the 19th annual National HIV Testing Day, Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services Commissioner Mary O'Dowd is encouraging all Jersey residents to get tested, know their HIV status and to help stop the spread of HIV.

She says the CDC is recommending, "that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV AIDS - so that they know their status, and can therefore prevent the risk of transmission … HIV-AIDS is still a significant problem here in the state of New Jersey- approximately 36,000 New Jerseyans are currently living with HIV or AIDS."

The Commissioner points out if HIV is discovered early on "there are very effective treatments and medications that can help an individual live a much longer and healthier life which is why it's so important for individuals to get tested."

She adds HIV and AIDS, "is spread through unprotected sex as well as IV drug use- those are two most common modes of transmission … New Jersey currently has over 140 rapid HIV testing sites across the state in all 21Counties, and as part of national HIV testing day many of these sites across the state are providing free testing events as part of their recognition of this important issue."

O'Dowd says in the past, it took quite a bit of time for individuals to find out if they were infected with the virus that causes AIDS, but these days "it's a simple test- only a single drop of blood from a fingertip or a swab of your gums is necessary and you one need one visit because you can get your results within 20 to 40 minutes."

She also stresses testing is important because people in rural and suburban areas- as well as the cities - may be exposed, since, "HIV does not discriminate in terms of its ability to transmit from person to person…we see that 34 percent of those with HIV AIDS are female…and in New Jersey, almost 80 percent of  people with HIV AIDS are over the age of 40 - so we do see the burden is higher in certain age groups…but it doesn't discriminate in terms of its ability to affect an individual."

For rapid HIV testing information, you can call 1-866-HIV-CHEC or visit the DHSS website.