DHEC Offers Free HIV Testing, Facebook Event for World AIDS Day
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
November 27, 2020
Columbia, SC – In observance of World AIDS Day, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will be sponsoring a free testing event at local health departments on December 1. Clients can be tested for HIV, STDs, and Hepatitis C at no cost.
As of December 31, 2018, there are over 20,000 South Carolina residents living with diagnosed HIV infection (including AIDS).
"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. “It is estimated 16% of the approximately 20,000 people living with HIV do not know their status, meaning that they will continue progressing to AIDS as well pose an infection risk to their loved ones and communities. We must work together to find and link these fellow South Carolinians to health care, for their sake and the sake of our communities,” he stressed.
According to the CDC, an estimated 90 percent of new HIV infections in the United States could be prevented by testing and diagnosing people who have HIV and ensuring they receive prompt and ongoing care and treatment.
"Early detection through testing remains essential to successfully identifying and treating the disease, and helping to end the epidemic," says Mansaray.
Another vital component to ending the HIV epidemic is ensuring that all persons living with HIV are in a continuous system of medical care and treatment. DHEC estimates that almost 6,000 persons living with HIV are not currently receiving medical treatment. To address this situation, DHEC has implemented Data to Care which offers those living with HIV assistance and support to bring them back into care and help them to stay in treatment.
Also on December 1st, DHEC and Ending the Epidemics SC invites students, legislature representatives, healthcare workers, people living with HIV, the media, faith-based communities, and everyone across the state to participate in the World AIDS Day panel that will be held via Ending the Epidemics SC Facebook Live. The event will feature information from HIV prevention agencies, as well as people living with HIV.
Between 2017 and 2018, 1,546 people in South Carolina were newly diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in SC. Of those newly diagnosed, 68 percent were African American, 25 percent were white, and 5 percent were Hispanic. In 2019, South Carolina was selected by the federal government as one of seven priority states alongside 48 counties, the District of Columbia, and San Juan, Puerto Rico, as part of the new national strategy to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030. Federal officials are collaborating with state and local stakeholders to expand access to HIV testing, treatment, and prevention services in these areas.
World AIDS Day is observed each year on December 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.