[image-1] On Thursday, the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control will host free HIV testing throughout the Lowcountry in early observance of World AIDS Day.

The United Nations-designated day is usually celebrated on Dec. 1, but in a state were nearly 19,000 residents were living with HIV or AIDS as of the end of 2016, DHEC is urging South Carolinians to get tested as soon as possible.

“Early detection through testing remains essential to successfully identifying and treating the disease, and helping to end the epidemic,” said Ali Mansaray, director of the department’s STD, HIV, and viral hepatitis division, in a statement.

Lowcountry residents can take advantage of free testing on Thurs. Nov. 29 at various clinics throughout the region.

In Charleston County, three clinics offer HIV testing services (Keep in mind that you’ll have to call ahead to make an appointment):

1. Johns Island
Hours: 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Address: 3574 Maybank Highway
Phone: 843-559-2855

2. Mt. Pleasant
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address: 1189 Sweetgrass Basket Parkway, Suite 100
Phone: 843-856-1210

3. North Charleston
Hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Address: 2070 Northbrook Blvd., Suite #A20
Phone: 843-953-4300

SCDHEC has a full list of participating clinics in Berkeley and Dorchester counties.

DHEC estimates that almost 6,000 people living with HIV are not receiving proper care. If you or someone you know is living with HIV or AIDS, the department’s Data to Care program may be able to offer assistance and support.

Free testing events in the Midlands, Upstate, and Pee Dee will be held on Wed. Nov. 28.