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World AIDS Day 2018 will be celebrated Dec. 1 with a focus on raising awareness about the disease and providing support to those who are living with it or HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

HopeHealth, a local clinic providing testing, education and behavioral intervention services for people who are HIV-positive in Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, will sponsor an event on Nov. 29 marking World AIDS Day.

Shiheda Furse, the community manager and event coordinator at the clinic at 1857 Joe Jeffords Hwy. in Orangeburg, said the celebration of World AIDS Day is important.

“HIV awareness continues to be imperative for topics of discussion due to the continuous stigma and new diagnosis in our Low Country (Public Health) Region. Medical advancements are improving greatly, but people are still being diagnosed with HIV,” Furse said.

“There’s a slight decrease in new diagnosis in our region due to HIV/STD prevention efforts and increasing access of medical services for people living with HIV and those who are at great risk," she said. "According to S.C. DHEC’s 2017 HIV/AIDS Summary, Orangeburg County is ranked number 3 for new HIV cases in the ... region."

HopeHealth will hold its fourth annual “TruthIz Spoken Word & Poetry Slam” from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 29, at the Broughton Street Venue, 10139 Broughton St., Orangeburg. The event is free, and refreshments will be served.

Furse said the event has been very well received by the local community.

“It’s a very informal but learning environment. You can expect to see talent from across the state performing artistic dance, songs, poetry and an acoustic band throughout the evening. There will be an amazing intermission with delicious catering," she said.

“The event is open to everyone and is definitely special because it’s non-judgmental and allows attendees and performers to express their thoughts through art. There’s no competition or strict guidelines - just community members having a great time in celebrating something that has impacted our community for more than three decades,” Furse said.

Individuals who wish to perform must register by calling Furse at 803-535-2272 or visiting the website https://www.hope-health.org/worldaidsday.

Furse said World AIDS Day is a time to further promote the mission of HopeHealth to empower and educate the community.

“Not just during World AIDS Day, but every day someone is empowered to know their status, educate themselves, adhere to medications and participate in any event that celebrates the work in HIV," she said. "These things bring us closer to our mission."

Furse said HopeHealth is celebrating World AIDS Day under the theme “Peace, Love & Hope” and is encouraging individuals to participate in the theme by wearing red, black and white.

According to the state Department of Health and Environmental Control’s Surveillance Report, through Dec. 2017, the Low Country Public Health Region reported a total of 3,786 HIV/AIDS cases, with a rate of 771 cases per 100,000 people.

SCDHEC’s Low Country Public Health Region includes Orangeburg, Bamberg and Calhoun counties, along with the counties of Allendale, Beaufort, Berkeley, Charleston, Colleton, Dorchester, Hampton and Jasper.

Orangeburg County’s rate is 506 cases per 100,000 people; Bamberg has a rate of 107 cases per 100,000; and Calhoun County has roughly 38 cases per 100,000 people.

“Voices of Hope” awards will be presented during the TruthIz event.

“Stigma continues to be the challenge; however, HopeHealth continues to educate and empower community members, partners and gatekeepers through special events and consistent conversations,” Furse said.

For more information on HopeHealth or to register for TruthIz and other events, call 803-535-2272 or visit https://www.hope-health.org/worldaidsday.

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Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter @DionneTandD.

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Staff Writer

Dionne Gleaton has been a staff writer with The T&D for 20 years. She has been an education reporter, regional reporter and currently writes features with an emphasis on health.

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