The Newark Organization Working to End New Jersey’s HIV/AIDS Epidemic

The North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) also aims to diligently support the LGBTQ community.

From left: Henry Iwuala, Angelica Andujur and Christian Mendez-Baez with NJCRI's mobile unit at a recent fair. Photo courtesy of North Jersey Community Research Initiative

The North Jersey Community Research Initiative (NJCRI) is one of New Jersey’s largest and most comprehensive HIV/AIDS community-based organizations, whose mission is to empower clients by reducing social and health disparities in the greater Newark area. 

Over the past 30 years, NJCRI has provided important health and social services, such as primary medical care (including transgender and hormone therapy), mental health and psychiatric services, behavioral research, substance abuse treatment, food pantries and homeless services, as well as many LGBTQ services, including drop-in centers.

“Our HIV infection rates have doubled over the past two years,” says NJCRI’s CEO, Brian McGovern, “but the state is aware of it, and we are working on bringing those numbers down.” 

There are programs underway aimed at eradicating HIV, while also focusing on other issues impacting the LGBTQ community. One of these initiatives is the Total Health Awareness Team (THAT). “We serve people in the clinic or in a mobile unit in the community, and we do health care screenings for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases,” explains McGovern. The benefit of THAT is it allows NJCRI to reach people onsite who are on preventive medications. 

McGovern points out that the stigma associated with HIV has been exacerbated by factors such as Covid-19 and monkeypox. “Monkeypox has a higher rate of infection in the world of gay men, yet we have seen a large percentage of this population getting vaccinated, so that is great,” McGovern says. “However, we need to ensure we reduce the stigma associated with monkeypox and gay men, because others are at risk in the general population, since it is transmitted through close, personal, often skin-related contact.” 

Another NJCRI initiative launched this year is the Rainbow program, which is aimed at addressing intimate-partner/interpersonal violence in the LGBTQ community. “It is called intimate-partner rather than domestic violence because in the LBGTQ community, people may not be married, or it may be a transgender person experiencing violence against them in the community. Or it could be an intimate relationship that may not be a long-term one, so intimate partner broadens the definition of relationship violence,” McGovern explains. The Rainbow program is one of the first of its kind in the state. The program includes a hotline for people to call in and speak with a live person who will put them in touch with services, whether it be medical care, respite care, mental health or other support. 

New Jersey is committed to ending the HIV epidemic by 2025 and has set the following goals: reduce new HIV infections by 75 percent; promote 100 percent testing, so people know their HIV/AIDS status; and promote access/linkage to care, so that 90 percent of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS have the medical care to be virally suppressed. 

Prevention is key to ending the epidemic. Biomedical intervention will be a major factor in doing so; pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), for example, is a medication that helps prevent infection. People living with HIV who stick to their medication will have better outcomes, be undetectable, and make HIV untransmittable.

Steve Adubato, PhD, is the author of five books including his latest, Lessons in Leadership. He is also an Emmy® Award–winning anchor on Thirteen/WNET (PBS) and NJ PBS. Check out Steve has appeared on CNN, FOX5 in NY and NBC’s Today Show, and his “Lessons in Leadership” video podcast with co-host Mary Gamba airs Sundays at 10 am on News 12+. Steve also provides executive leadership coaching and seminars for a variety of corporations and organizations both regionally and nationally. For more information, visit

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