COLUMBIA – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) was joined by Robert R. Redfield, M.D., director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and other public health leaders recently to talk about local and state efforts to end the HIV epidemic in South Carolina.
South Carolina was selected earlier this year to be part of a new national strategy to end the HIV epidemic in the United States by 2030, “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America.” The goal of the initiative is to reduce the number of new HIV infections through enhancements in evidence-based prevention, diagnosis, treatment and response efforts.
“South Carolina remains committed to working with our federal, state and local partners to help eradicate the HIV epidemic,” said DHEC Director Rick Toomey. “Together, through coordinated initiatives like ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic,’ we can make a critical and long-lasting impact on the lives of South Carolinians affected by this disease.”
During the event, State Epidemiologist Linda Bell, M.D., and other health experts, provided updates on South Carolina’s ongoing effort to combat the HIV epidemic. Participants also discussed ideas and initiatives that may help in that fight both locally, and nationally.
“HIV remains a significant cause of illness, disability and death, despite declines in new AIDS cases and deaths,” Bell said. “An average of 66 cases of HIV infection were reported each month during 2017, and our goal is to decrease that number and prevent the spread of this disease by increasing awareness and treatment.”
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“We have the tools and the will to end the HIV epidemic in America and South Carolina has shown its commitment to help lead the way,” Redfield said. “This initiative is by the community, for the community, and in the community – and we look forward to working with South Carolina to remove local barriers to HIV treatment, care, and prevention.”
As of Dec. 31, 2017, nearly 20,000 South Carolina residents were reported to be living with HIV (including AIDS). South Carolina currently ranks 11th among states, with an AIDS case rate of 15.8 per 100,000 population in 2017. Of those newly diagnosed, 66 percent were African American, 22 percent were white, and 8 percent were Hispanic.
As part of South Carolina’s commitment to ending the HIV epidemic, the cities of Columbia and Charleston, DHEC and other local partners signed the Paris Declaration on Fast-Track Cities in early 2019. The declaration calls on cities to strengthen their local HIV/AIDS responses to achieve identified treatment targets aimed at reducing new HIV-related infections and end AIDS-related deaths.
“I was inspired to join CDC Director Redfield, our federal, state and local colleagues and leaders today to develop a comprehensive and compassionate data driven approach to the fight against HIV and AIDS,” Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin said.
“We are proud to be a Fast Track City to address this public health epidemic. Working with our state and community partners, our goal is to eliminate the stigma associated with HIV and increase public engagement in treatment opportunities and prevention resources among people in the Charleston area,” Charleston Mayor John J. Tecklenburg said.
Early detection through testing is critical to successfully identifying and treating the disease. The CDC estimates about 1.1 million people nationally have HIV, and one in seven of them don’t know they have it.
For more information about HIV testing, as well as local HIV testing sites, call 1-855-4SCDHEC (1-855-472-3432), or visit DHEC's service locator at scdhec.gov/HIVLocator.