National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is February 7, and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is encouraging all South Carolinians to get tested, to know their status, and for those living with HIV to start/continue and stay in, or return treatment to keep the virus suppressed, the agency announced today. This year’s theme is “Together for Love: Stop HIV Stigma”.
This year, in conjunction with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, DHEC is also promoting the goal of “Ending the Epidemics” in South Carolina. This new initiative focuses on reducing the number of new HIV, STD and Hepatitis C infections, linking infected individuals to care, increase viral suppression for those living with HIV/AIDS, and reemphasizing prevention.
"African-Americans, who comprise only 27 percent of the state’s total population, accounts for 68 percent of the total people living with HIV in South Carolina, a grave disproportionate burden or impact,” said Ali Mansaray, director for the division of STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis. Mansaray added, “many of these folks have not yet been tested and don't know their HIV status”.
"The annual observance emphasizes the steps that individuals, families, agencies and communities can take together to make the greatest impact and reduce the stigma of testing," said Dr. Linda Bell, state epidemiologist and director of the agency's bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. "Those steps include learning the facts about HIV, getting tested, becoming involved and helping to link or relink people with HIV to treatment. All of these are ways to make a difference in your community."
Throughout the year, DHEC clinics provide HIV testing at a small cost depending on the client's ability to pay. On February 6th, in recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, free HIV and STD testing will be offered at participating DHEC clinics. For more information about HIV testing, as well as local HIV testing sites, call DHEC's AIDS/STD Hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS (1-800-322-2437), or visit DHEC's service locator at www.scdhec.gov/HIVLocator.