[image-1] The S.C. Dept. of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) will offer free HIV/AIDS testing at participating clinics across South Carolina on Friday, in conjunction with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Participating clinics can be found through DHEC’s HIV, STD, and Hepatitis Service Locator.

There are about nine locations in the Charleston and North Charleston areas, including the Charleston Center, MUSC, Fetter Health Care Network, Roper St. Francis, and Palmetto Community Care.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an annual opportunity to increase HIV education and treatment for black Americans. The theme for this year is “We’re in this, together,” according to their website.

The Center for Disease Control reports that, since at least the mid-’80s, the black community has been disproportionately affected by the AIDS crisis. By 1993, it was the leading cause of death for African American men between 25-44 years of age.

SCDHEC reports that in recent years, the state’s black community, more than any other race, is harmed by HIV. In study conducted in 2017-2018, DHEC found that among the 20,166 people living with HIV and AIDS in the state, 67.8% were African American. Among the 1,546 people newly diagnosed with the virus in S.C., 61.6% were African American.

Regionally, the South has a large majority of HIV diagnoses in the U.S. with 52 percent. Across the U.S. black and latino citizens accounted for 69 percent of HIV diagnoses in 2018, despite comprising only 31 percent of the population.

While there is still no cure for HIV, treatment has made living for years after diagnosis much more likely, and the earlier a diagnosis is made, the sooner treatment can begin. There are multiple ways that patients can receive monetary help, including Medicaid and the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program, for the often costly treatment.

Palmetto Community Care, one of the participating clinics in the Charleston area, notes that January was a record high year for HIV testing.

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