National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Feb. 7, and DHEC will offer free HIV and STD testing at participating DHEC clinics that day.
In the Upstate region, free testing is available Feb. 14.
“African-Americans comprise only 28 percent of the state’s total population, but account for 69 percent of all 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 points out that many have not yet been tested and don’t know their HIV status. The theme of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is “Stay the Course, the Fight is Not Over!” The goal is for those living with HIV to start, continue or stay in treatment to keep the virus suppressed.”
“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. These are all ways to make a difference and end the epidemic.”
In conjunction with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, DHEC is also promoting the goal of “Ending the Epidemic[BMLJ1] [MY2] ” in South Carolina. This new initiative seeks to reduce the number of new HIV, STD and Hepatitis C infections, link those living with HIV/AIDS[MY3] to effective care to keep the HIV virus suppressed and re-emphasize prevention.
Throughout the year, DHEC clinics provide HIV testing at a small cost [BMLJ4] depending on the client’s ability to pay. Find a health department clinic at scdhec.gov/Health/PublicHealthClinics and make an appointment. Your life may depend on it!