DHEC Encourages HIV Awareness and Offers Free Testing for World AIDS Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Nov. 29, 2021
COLUMBIA, S.C. – In observance of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will offer free testing at local health departments on Thursday, Dec. 2. South Carolinians can be tested for HIV, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and Hepatitis C at no cost.
This year is the 40th year of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day is observed each year on Dec. 1 and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV, and remember those who have died. Started in 1988, World AIDS Day was the first-ever global health day.
"Every county in the state has residents living with HIV, but many South Carolinians remain unaware of their HIV status because they have not received an HIV test," said Ali Mansaray, director of DHEC's STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division. “The CDC estimates that 16 percent of the more than 20,000 South Carolinians living with HIV do not know their status. Undiagnosed individuals risk transmitting HIV. We must work together to find and link these fellow South Carolinians to health care, for their sake and the sake of our communities.”
As of Dec. 31, 2019, there are more than 20,000 South Carolina residents living with diagnosed HIV infection, including AIDS. Between 2018-2019, 1,556 people in South Carolina were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. Of these, a large portion – approximately 40 percent – were young people ages 20-29.
“We now have all the tools necessary to end the HIV epidemic, such as powerful and highly effective medications to prevent and treat HIV,” Mansaray said. “Unfortunately, what still eludes us is how to eliminate stigma rooted in our attitudes, beliefs, and behaviors regarding the virus and those affected by it. This situation is an endemic challenge that is the final frontier in the fight against HIV.”
Another vital component to ending the HIV epidemic is ensuring all people living with HIV are continuously receiving medical care and treatment. DHEC estimates almost 4,500 South Carolinians living with HIV are not currently receiving medical treatment. To address this, DHEC has implemented the Data to Care program, which offers assistance and support to those living with HIV and helps bring them back into care and stay in treatment.
DHEC, Ending the Epidemics SC and other key partners invite the public to participate in Ending the Epidemics SC World AIDS Day 2021 events online or in-person on Wednesday, Dec. 1. An all-day Facebook and Instagram event will feature video greetings and information from individuals, clinics and agencies around the state, and the annual Charleston-area World AIDS Day Community Candlelight Vigil will be livestreamed beginning at 6:30 p.m. An in-person event will take place in Columbia, with COVID-19 protocols in place, outside the South Carolina State House from 12 p.m.-3 p.m. on Dec. 1 and will include free HIV testing, demonstrations of home-test kits, informational displays, holiday crafting, trivia and game tables, swag, and prizes. Visitors can participate in a photo competition using the hashtag #EtESCWAD2021, with the person receiving the most “likes” winning the grand prize: a pair of AirPod Pros.