World AIDS Day 2023: Remember and Commit

HHS Minority HIV/AIDS Fund World AIDS Day 35 Image

Image Alternative Text: Depicted is the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Minority HIV/AIDS Fund (MHAF) World AIDS Day 35 image, a map of the world in shades of blue, with a red ribbon symbolizing HIV/AIDS awareness, and the words, "World AIDS Day. December 1" followed by "World AIDS Day 35. Remember and Commit." The background of the image is white. The image is via the HHS MHAF.


Originally written in October 2022 (with additions and updates since that time) by:

Patricia Fortunato, Content and Program Manager, Clinical Research and Grants, NeuroMusculoskeletal Institute (NMI); and Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Training and Content Developer, Department of Psychiatry, Rowan–Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan–Virtua SOM) (

Thank you to fellow Division of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Council members and medical, clinical, and administrative colleagues across Rowan University, for collaborating and helping to provide input and resources focused on health equity, across previously published articles on the blog.


Interested in contributing to the Rowan University DEI website/blog and/or social media? Please complete the following brief interest form and share with student groups and colleagues across all Rowan colleges and schools:


The inaugural World AIDS Day event occurred in 1988 and supported messaging to raise awareness about human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and remember those affected by the crisis. The 35th commemoration of the event takes place this year, with the theme, "World AIDS Day 35: Remember and Commit."

Since 1988, there has been significant progress in addressing HIV/AIDS due to medical research advancements, increased access to evidence-based and compassionate prevention and treatment modalities, and a greater understanding of the viruses due to global advocacy and education. The White House maintains the National HIV/AIDS Strategy and the United States President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) Strategy, with the goal of ending the crisis by 2030. Outlined below are the five action steps deemed necessary to advance progress.

  • Increase awareness and end stigma against people living with HIV/AIDS by promoting accurate health education on the viruses, prevention, and medical treatment.
  • Advocate for high-quality, linguistically and culturally responsive, affordable care across health care systems—spanning prevention services, testing, medical treatment, and social determinants of health (SDOH)—for all people, with special focus on people at-risk of and living with HIV/AIDS.
  • Promote prevention education and safe practices, including syringe services programs (SSP), overdose prevention strategies, and access to post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
  • Commit to and support ongoing scientific research to enable innovation in developing new prevention and medical treatment modalities, working towards a cure for HIV/AIDS.
  • Listen to and prioritize impacted communities and people with lived experiences.


Information About HIV/AIDS and Harm Reduction

Stigma: Stigma consists of negative attitudes towards a group of people, thus creating an environment where individuals struggling with medical conditions such as HIV/AIDS, substance use disorder (SUD), mental illness, etc. are unfairly isolated, feared, and disgraced. These negative attitudes are shaped by societal stereotypes and discrimination. For further educational information about stigma, click here to download a stigma and language guide for sharing with all Rowan students, faculty, and staff across all Rowan colleges and schools, and the general public.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV): HIV weakens a person's immune system by destroying cells that combat disease and infection. While there is currently no effective cure for HIV, it can be controlled with medical care. If the virus is not medically treated, it can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). 


Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS): AIDS is late-stage HIV infection. In the United States, the majority of people living with HIV take HIV medication and do not develop AIDS, as the prescribed medicine prevents progression. For additional educational information about HIV/AIDS, and referral to testing and treatment, visit the HHS MHAF website.


Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP): PEP is a medication taken to prevent HIV after a possible exposure during sex, injection drug use (IDU), or sexual assault. It should be used in emergency situations only and must be taken within 72 hours after a recent possible exposure to HIV.


Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP): PrEP is a medication taken every day by people who do not have HIV—but who are at-risk of HIV through sex or IDU. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), research indicates that consistent use of PrEP every day reduces risk of HIV from sex by 99%, and from IDU by 74%.


Antiretroviral Therapy (ART): ART is medication recommended for all people living with HIV (regardless of CD4 cell count), to continually suppress viral load, maintain high CD4 cell counts, prevent AIDS, and reduce risk of transmitting HIV to others. For additional educational information about PEP, PrEP, and ART, and referral to treatment, visit the HHS National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of AIDS Research (OAR) website.


Injection Drug Use (IDU): The overdose crisis—both on a statewide and national level—has also brought to light an increased and ongoing incidence of blood-borne infections, from HIV to viral hepatitis to bacterial infections. These infections are primarily borne from contaminated drug injection equipment and low vaccination rates among at-risk populations. For further educational information about IDU and referral to care, visit the CDC website.


Substance Use Disorder (SUD): People can be diagnosed with a specific type of SUD based on the primary substance that they are experiencing issues with, such as opioid use disorder (OUD) or alcohol use disorder (AUD). Many patients with SUD experience issues with multiple substances (polysubstance use disorder). SUD is a disease that requires treatment.


Opioid Use Disorder (OUD): OUD is a chronic lifelong disease with serious potential outcomes including disability, relapse, overdose, and death. It is a period of opioid use leading to distress, with at least two of the following symptoms occurring within a 12-month period:

  • Exceeding intended duration of opioid use
  • Desire to cut down opioid use but unable
  • Great deal of time involved with opioid use
  • Opioid cravings
  • Opioid use interfering with daily obligations
  • Continued use of the substance despite problems
  • Sacrificing important activities
  • Continued opioid use despite hazardous situations
  • Continued opioid use despite acknowledgement of issues
  • Opioid tolerance
  • Opioid withdrawal

For additional educational information about SUD and OUD and referral to treatment, visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website.


Opioids: Opioids include prescription opioids such as oxycodone (OxyContin®), hydrocodone (Vicodin®), codeine, and morphine, among others; and illicit opioids such as fentanyl and heroin. Opioids trigger a pain relief response that also slows down systems in the body, including breathing. Prescription opioids can reduce severe pain, but they come with serious risks.

Risks of opioid use/misuse include the following:

  • Overdose: Taking too many opioids at one time can cause a person to stop breathing.
  • Opioid Use Disorder (OUD)
  • Withdrawal: body aches, stomach cramps, stuffy nose, sweating, pain, nausea, vomiting, chills, restlessness
  • Pain: Long-term opioid use can actually cause a person to be more sensitive to pain.

For further educational information about opioids, visit the CDC website.


Medication for Addiction Treatment (MAT): MAT are Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved medications that can be used to safely and effectively treat OUD, and AUD. These medications are clinically effective to help manage cravings and withdrawal, leading to long-term recovery.

MAT is administered by licensed medical providers to people seeking treatment in a variety of settings, including and not limited to the following:

  • Hospital Emergency Departments (ED)
  • Office-Based Addiction Treatment (OBAT) Clinics
  • Opioid Treatment Programs (OTP) at Federally Qualified Health Care Centers (FQHC)
  • Inpatient Recovery Settings
  • Community-Based Settings


Substance Dependence and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Counseling/Therapy: Counseling/therapy, such as motivational interviewing, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and contingency management, in addition to peer recovery support, can help people with SUD recover and maintain long-term recovery. For additional educational information about MAT, counseling, and referral to treatment, visit the SAMHSA website.


Rowan University Recovery Month 2023 Substance Use Disorder Health Communication


Image Alternative Text: The health communication image reads, at the top, "Substance Use Disorder and Recovery: What you should know." Below this text are definitions and summaries of substance use disorder (SUD), counseling/therapy, medication for addiction treatment (MAT) for opioid use disorder (OUD) and alcohol use disorder (AUD), and naloxone and overdose prevention. In the middle of the image are bright-colored images: a heart with a medical symbol, an icon depicting conversation/support, and lungs. The background of the image is beige. The image is via Rowan University/Southern New Jersey Medication for Addiction Treatment Center of Excellence (MATCOE).

Click here to download the health communication handout for sharing with all Rowan students, faculty, and staff across all Rowan colleges and schools.


Harm Reduction: For people who stop their treatment plan at any time, or who are not ready to stop using drugs, there are harm reduction strategies and resources (some of which are outlined below) to help keep them safe until they are ready to continue their treatment plan or begin a plan. For further educational information about harm reduction, visit the SAMHSA website.


Sterile Needle and Syringe Access: Sharing needles, and using used needles, increases risk of diseases like HIV and hepatitis. It is important for people who inject drugs (PWID) to always use a new, sterile needle and syringe if they are going to inject drugs. Even reusing personal needles can cause damage to skin tissue and veins.

In New Jersey, pharmacies can sell up to two hypodermic needles and syringes, without a prescription, to customers 18 years or older who provide valid photo identification. (P.L.2011, c.183)

Individuals can exchange used supplies and obtain sterile supplies at local New Jersey Department of Health (NJ DOH)-funded syringe services programs (SSP). The Camden Area Health Education Center (AHEC) provides a mobile van at 2600 Mount Ephraim Avenue where individuals can obtain sterile needles and syringes, fentanyl test strips (FTS), condoms, and other preventative resources. Hours of operation are Mondays and Thursdays from 8:30 am to 11:30 am.

For additional information about these services, click here to download the New Jersey Syringe Access Program Guide, featuring a center directory of NJ DOH-funded programs, for sharing with the general public.


Naloxone and Overdose Prevention: All people who use drugs (PWUD), patients who are prescribed opioids, loved ones/families, and all community members should keep naloxone on them in case someone overdoses. Naloxone is a lifesaving FDA-approved medication designed to rapidly reverse the life-threatening effects of an opioid overdose. It has been administered in the ED across the nation for decades, and is increasingly being utilized by first responders and caregivers, loved ones, and bystanders.

The medication is commonly administered through the following formulas:

  • Intranasal Spray Formula
  • Intramuscular Injection
  • Intranasal Atomization (utilizing a mucosal atomization device)
  • Auto-Injector (similar to those used for epinephrine)


Naloxone Access in New Jersey and at Rowan University: In January of 2023, New Jersey passed legislation requiring all colleges and universities in the state to create and maintain policies governing usage of naloxone hydrochloride nasal spray for opioid overdose emergencies. The legislation requires opioid overdose victims to be transported to an ED by licensed and trained medical professionals after receiving naloxone—even if the victim appears to be revived post-naloxone administration.

All Rowan Emergency Medical Services (EMS) staff carry the medication and are prepared to administer it in the event of an opioid overdose emergency, and naloxone is available across all Rowan campuses for other staff to be able to administer. For questions about naloxone trainings and distribution on campus, email Allie Pearce, Assistant Director of Health Innovation and Quality Assurance at the Rowan Wellness Center in Glassboro, at; or Scott Woodside, MSN, MBA, RN, Director of the Rowan Wellness Center in Glassboro, at

Through the Naloxone 365 program in New Jersey, every pharmacy in the state is able to provide a naloxone nasal spray kit to an individual age 14 or older who requests it—no prescription necessary, cost-free, and anonymously. Learn more about the medication via the New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (NJ DMHAS) health communication, and access the list of pharmacies where you can obtain the medication cost-free. Additionally, the New Jersey Harm Reduction Coalition (NJHRC) will mail NARCAN® (naloxone) nasal spray or intramuscular naloxone to those who cannot otherwise access it—visit the NEXT Distro website at


SNJMATCOE NARCAN® Naloxone Nasal Spray Health Communication


Image Alternative Text: The health communication image reads, at the top, "Save a Life with NARCAN® Nasal Spray." Below this text depicts how a bystander should administer naloxone nasal spray to an opioid overdose victim, and the steps to save the life of the victim:

  • STEP 1: Identify Overdose: Look for signs that someone has overdosed on opioids: not responsive, irregular breathing, tiny pupils
  • STEP 2: Call for Help: Immediately call 911 once you identify an overdose. Find and prepare to use naloxone nasal spray while you call for emergency medical services.
  • STEP 3: Prepare the Nasal Spray: It comes in a ready-to-use nasal spray, no assembly required. It's important to know where the nasal spray is kept—it should be carried by you or the victim.
  • STEP 4: Administer the Nasal Spray: Lay the victim on their back, support the back of their neck, and tilt their head back; next, insert the nozzle in one nostril until your fingers press against the nose; and firmly press the plunger to release the entire dose into one nostril—do not try to dispense half the dose in one nostril.
  • STEP 5: Recovery: Place the opioid overdose victim in recovery position: on their side, with one knee out front, and hands under the head. If possible, stay with them until help arrives. Re-evaluate them every three minutes—if they still aren't breathing or responding, give them another dose of naloxone nasal spray.

The image depicts two diverse people in bright-colored clothes, an opioid overdose victim and a bystander who saves the victim's life. The background of the image is white. The image is via Rowan University/Southern New Jersey Medication for Addiction Treatment Center of Excellence (MATCOE).

Click here to download the health communication handout for sharing with all Rowan students, faculty, and staff across all Rowan colleges and schools, and the general public.


Additional Support for Rowan Students

The Wellness Center provides numerous prevention, treatment, and recovery support services for all undergraduate and graduate students on the Rowan Glassboro campus who are seeking sexual and reproductive health support, testing for sexually transmitted diseases (STD), and/or who are struggling with substance dependence, SUD and/or any addiction, mental health issues, and other medical needs.

  • Students are encouraged to take free condoms provided by Healthy Campus Initiatives (HCI). Learn more about resources at this link.

*If you are in crisis, you can call Rowan Public Safety at 856.256.4911. Additionally, the Wellness Center After Hours emergency number is 856.256.4333 (follow the prompts to speak with a counselor on call); or call Public Safety at 856.256.4911.


Confidential, high-quality care for all Rowan Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences (Rowan GSBS), Rowan–Virtua School of Osteopathic Medicine (Rowan–Virtua SOM), and Cooper Medical School of Rowan University (CMSRU) graduate students, medical students, and medical residents who are struggling with mental health issues is available at the Rowan–Virtua SOM Student Mental Health Center:

  • All services are provided off-campus to protect privacy, at the Rowan–Virtua SOM Psychiatry Mount Laurel clinical site or via telehealth. For maximum privacy, no students or residents are permitted to shadow or deliver services for the clinic, and to protect against role conflicts, providers do not participate in the academic evaluation of graduate students, medical students, and medical residents.
  • Please note that this clinical site is currently only insurance-based. Rowan GSBS, Rowan–Virtua SOM, and CMSRU graduate students, medical students, and medical residents who are seeking a diagnostic evaluation and/or clinical care will need to utilize health insurance to make an appointment with a psychiatrist for medication management/therapy or with a clinical psychologist for therapy/performance coaching.
  • Rowan GSBS, Rowan–Virtua SOM, and CMSRU graduate students, medical students, and medical residents can make an appointment with a licensed clinical provider by calling 856.482.9000.
*If you are a Rowan GSBS, Rowan–Virtua SOM, or CMSRU graduate student, medical student, or medical resident calling Monday to Friday after 4pm or on a weekend, and you need urgent medical assistance or are in distress, please call Rowan Public Safety at 856.256.4911 and ask for the counselor on call.


Additional Support for Rowan Faculty and Staff

The Employee Advisory Service (EAS) is a referral agency for all Rowan faculty and staff. If, in the opinion of the EAS Advisor, the employee should seek medical assistance, the Advisor will help with the arrangements. If other services seem indicated, the employee will be advised and referred. Employees may contact the EAS directly, and are encouraged to voluntarily seek information and referral. All contact with the EAS is confidential. To learn more about services, please call 866.327.9133 or visit the Rowan EAS website.


Additional Support for Rowan Students, Faculty, and Staff

The Rowan Recovery Support Group continues to facilitate meeting on Mondays from from 5pm to 6pm, at the Wellness Center in Winans Hall on the Glassboro campus. The group is open to all students, faculty, and staff from all Rowan colleges and schools including Rowan–Virtua SOM and CMSRU, who are in all stages of recovery and/or who are supporting loved ones/family members in all stages of recovery.

  • The group is supportive of all people in recovery from substance dependence and addictions/disorders, including opioid use, stimulant use, alcohol use, and mental health disorders, and is supportive of people on all pathways to recovery including MAT for OUD and AUD.
  • The Rowan Recovery Support Group is facilitated by John Woodruff, Senior Director of Accessibility and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Coordinator at Rowan, and Co-Director of the Center for Neurodiversity at Rowan. For more information about the group, email John Woodruff at or call 267.566.8619.
  • Click here to download the flyer for sharing with all Rowan students, faculty, and staff across all Rowan colleges and schools.


Additional Support and Resources Available to the General Public

  • New Jersey AIDS/HIV/STD Hotline: Call this cost-free, confidential hotline at 800.624.2377 for information about HIV/AIDS and other STDs; for referrals to prevention, testing, and treatment services; and for referrals to NJ DOH-funded harm reduction centers. Learn more about the hotline and other contact options on the website.
  • Testing and Services for HIV and STDs in New Jersey: The NJ DOH maintains several resources available to the public, including a directory of HIV rapid testing sites in the state; and a list of NJ DOH-funded HIV prevention programs. Learn more about these services on the website, and how to access cost-free medications and support with health insurance.
  • ReachNJ, New Jersey's 24/7 Addiction Treatment Helpline: The New Jersey Department of Human Services (NJ DHS) offers a central call-line for all New Jersey residents who are seeking help with SUD. Each call to ReachNJ is answered live in the first 30 seconds. Trained helpline staff screen callers to identify exact needs, and provide referrals to SUD/addictions treatment and social determinants of health (SDOH) support services with local providers. The helpline serves New Jersey residents of all ages and regardless of health insurance status and/or ability to pay for treatment. Call 844.REACH.NJ (844.732.2465), and visit the ReachNJ website for additional resources.
  • New Jersey Substance Abuse Monitoring System (NJSAMS) Addiction Services Treatment Directory: The NJ DHS, New Jersey Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services (NJ DMHAS) offers a searchable online directory of SUD treatment providers that includes MAT, withdrawal management, outpatient services, and inpatient services ( The directory offers numerous search options to support the public in obtaining information regarding their desired treatment provider, and is searchable by provider name, level of care, and by availability for inpatient treatment service. If you are unsure what type of SUD service is needed, call 844.REACH.NJ (844.732.2465) for navigation and referral support, or visit the NJ DMHAS "Learn More About Treatment" website.
  • SAMHSA Treatment Locator: SAMHSA offers a confidential and anonymous website ( for people seeking mental health and SUD treatment in the United States and its territories.
  • SAMHSA Behavioral Health Support Locator: SAMHSA offers Find Support, a website that assists people in navigating frequently asked questions (FAQ) at the start of their mental healing journey. Visit the website at
  • SAMHSA National Helpline: SAMHSA offers 24/7 free, confidential information and referral for mental health and substance use prevention, treatment, and recovery services. Call 1.800.662.HELP
  • 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline: For mental health crisis support, for all people who are struggling and their loved ones/families, call or text "988" and visit the website at for additional resources.


Additional educational information and supportive resources focused on substance dependence and substance use disorder (SUD)/addictions treatment, and related terms and issues are available at; and educational information and supportive resources focused on suicide prevention are available at

Please know that there is no shame in seeking support and treatment. You are important and your life matters.