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World AIDS Day Shines Lights on HIV/AIDS in Charleston, Urges Awareness
10/31/2016 1:16:54 PM

World AIDS Day photo by Patrica White

Each year on Dec. 1, people all around the globe pause to remember the lives lost to the AIDS epidemic. Locally, AIDS service organizations will do that – and much more – as they work to educate the community about how HIV impacts Charleston.

The Charleston Area World AIDS Day committee – comprised of volunteers from Lowcountry AIDS Services and the Ryan White WellnessCenter at Roper St. Francis Healthcare, and other local organizations – is planning several community events to encourage HIV/AIDS prevention, testing, education and overall awareness.

The international theme of World AIDS Day 2016 is “Hands Up for HIV Prevention.” Locally, the theme for Charleston Area World AIDS Day is “Connecting Communities” with the goal of increasing awareness of HIV throughout our community, and focusing on bringing an end to epidemic levels of new infections.

“We know that working together as a community to fight HIV and AIDS, we can have a much larger impact,” said Michael Luciano, Treatment Educator at Lowcountry AIDS Services and a past chairperson of the World AIDS Day Committee. “Many people think AIDS happens elsewhere, not here in Charleston. But our community is not immune to this disease. By having conversations and educating people, we can make a difference in the alarming number of new infections locally, and can break down the stigma for those living with HIV and AIDS.”

The public is invited to the Charleston Area World AIDS Day Community Awareness Candlelight Vigil from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Unitarian Church, 4 Archdale St. in downtown Charleston. A short reception, including refreshments and musical performances, will immediately follow the event.

Additional events leading up to World AIDS Day include:

·       Lowcountry AIDS Services – Walgreens and Trident Tech College testing events (in-office, walk-in testing).

·       MUSC Infectious Disease Clinic / EMPOWERR – testing on campus in the morning and at the College of Charleston in the afternoon, educational panels, safer sex kit assembly.

·       College of Charleston – testing events, six AIDS Quilt panels will be on display at the Addlestone Library from Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

·       Fetter Healthcare Network - Trident Tech Palmer Campus testing 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. / “Whilimena’s War” documentary screening

·       Planned Parenthood – “Making Proud Choices” presentation / HIV testing promotion

·       Ryan White Wellness Center at Roper/St. Francis – partnering with Art Institute Charleston to collaborate on fashion pieces/traveling art exhibits; sponsoring community talk-back session at Daniel Island Middle School with presentation of “The Yellow Boat” Nov. 11

·       DHEC – Walk-in $10 “fast track” HIV & other STI testing at the Northwoods clinic and Dorchester County Department of Health in Summerville.

South Carolina now ranks 13th out of the 50 states in incidence of new infections and prevalence of HIV infection. There were more than 3,600 people living with HIV/AIDS in the Lowcountry in 2015 and, of South Carolina’s four health regions as defined by the S.C. Department of Health & Environmental Control, the Lowcountry region had the highest rate of new infections diagnosed during 2014. 

“We welcome everyone to be part of World AIDS Day this year,” said Topher Larkin, outreach specialist for the Ryan White Wellness Center and co-chair of the Charleston Area World AIDS Day committee. “The HIV epidemic is very real in South Carolina and in Charleston. By attending just one event, the community can become more aware and educated about how we fight this disease here at home.”

Be part of the World AIDS Day “Hands Up for #HIVPrevention” social media campaign. Write a phrase on the palm of your hand summarizing what we need to strengthen HIV prevention efforts. Examples could be more condoms, empowerment, inclusion, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or rights for women and girls. Then take a photo of your raised hand with the word/phrase written on your palm. The photo can be your palm or your palm and your face. Then share on social media with #HIVPrevention. Also use #CHSWorldAIDSDay to share locally.


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