CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Tuesday, December 1 is World AIDS Day and the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) has events planned to spread information and provide assistance on HIV/AIDS to people in South Carolina.
DHEC will have free HIV testing at all of their facilities throughout the state on December 1, at any time, during their normal business hours.
They will also have a virtual candlelight vigil later that same day at 6:30 pm on their Facebook page.
The vigil will honor the lives of those who lost their lives in South Carolina to the disease.
The final event of the week will be a HIV/AIDS Brunch and Learn at 9:00 am, also, on DHEC’s Facebook page.
They believe that holding events, like these, could bring the necessary attention to the disease that still affects many people.
“The more that we talk about HIV [and] we make HIV testing part of routine medical care, I think the more we’ll be able to reduce that stigma and make HIV like any common medical disease,” said Dr. Katy Richardson, Medical Director of the Lowcountry region of DHEC.
DHEC research shows that between 2017 and 2018, 68% of African Americans live with the disease compared to 25% for caucasians and 5% for hispanics.
Officials provided some input into why there is a larger number of African Americans who have HIV/AIDS.
“…It has to do with access to care, has to do with stigma, it has to do with the racism we see in our communities,” said Dr. Richardson.
South Carolina was named a priority state in 2019 by President Trump, which means that it’s one of the states that will prioritize trying to eradicate the disease throughout the state.
One way health experts attempt to attack it is by making sure they provide more access to testing to people living in rural communities
The COVID-19 pandemic has made it a little more difficult to hold the typical health fairs that provide more information to people in rural areas that can help keep them healthy.
However, Aaron O’Brien, Quality and Development Manager at the Roper St. Francis Ryan White Wellness Center, wanted to inform the community on the importance of keeping up with your health and how to combat diseases like HIV.
“It’s still important to take care of your health. You can come and get a HIV test, it’s free of charge at our clinic. It’s very safe to do that. We’re taking all of the precautions necessary,” said O’Brien.
Click here for more information on DHEC’s efforts during World AIDS Day.