Gov. Chris Christie and state Health Commissioner Mary O'Dowd held a press conference Tuesday morning at the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation in New Brunswick to announce $19.5 million in state funding that will benefit 54 HIV/AIDS treatment organizations in New Jersey.
Lawrence Township-based HomeFront will receive $106,967 as part of the funding.
According to a press release from the governor's office, $11.2 million will be used specifically for HIV counseling, testing and education, while the other $8.3 million is slated for medical care and social services.
O'Dowd said the funding follows an additional $8 million in federal funding that was made available earlier this year to New Jersey for AIDS and HIV treatment.
More than 36,000 New Jersey residents live with HIV/AIDS, O'Dowd said.
Of those people living with HIV/AIDS, 7,000 of those low-income residents receive medications through a state drug distribution program, she said.
During the press conference, 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.
Christie said 140 HIV/AIDS testing centers exist in New Jersey.
The Hyacinth AIDS Foundation - the largest and oldest HIV/AIDS treatment organization in the state, according to Christie's office - received $2.1 million of the grant money, the largest allotment to be made available through the new wave of funding, Christie said.
Organizations like the Hyacinth Aids Foundation "(provide) a really vital home for people who have been dealt a devastating blow," he said.
Kathy Ahearn-O'Brien, executive director of the Hyacinth AIDS Foundation, said the support of the state has helped further HIV/AIDS treatment, but more work needs to be done.
"Treatment advances have provided the opportunity to see the end of AIDS in our lifetime," she said in a prepared statement. "But this can be achieved only if we continue the very strong relationships that exist between medical providers and community based organizations."