(VIDEO) Fighting HIV and AIDS in South Carolina

Jim Manning

Known by most Americans for its gorgeous beaches and outstanding golf courses, South Carolina is unfortunately known to most public health professionals for its staggering rates of HIV and AIDS.

This article is part of a series on global AIDS issues to be published by Rewire throughout December. To find other articles in the series, search “global AIDS 2009.”

South Carolina is known by most Americans for its long,
sunny days, gorgeous Atlantic Ocean beaches and outstanding golf courses. Unfortunately, most public health
professionals know South Carolina for its staggering rates of HIV and AIDS.
This is a public health issue
which needs to be understood better by the public, particularly on World AIDS Day.

William, Anthony and Justin, three African American HIV positive men, describe what it’s like to be HIV positive and living South Carolina, which rates 8th in the country in AIDS case rates.

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South Carolina ranks 8th among all U.S. states
and District of Columbia in AIDS case rates. I work for Palmetto AIDS Life
Support Services of South Carolina, Inc. which is the state’s longest serving
AIDS Service Organization founded in 1985. We are located in Columbia,the state
capital, which the CDC ranks 9th among all U.S. Metropolitan
Statistical Areas in AIDS case rates. 
Yes, this includes New York, San Francisco, New Orleans, Philadelphia,
Atlanta, etc.

Our mission to provide education, health and social services
to persons living with and communities affected by HIV and AIDS.  Stigma, education, responsibility and
the need to know one’s status are focal points of our prevention activities.  According to the SC Department of
Health and Environmental Control, as of December 2007, over 14,600 persons have
been diagnosed and reporting living with HIV/AIDS in South Carolina.  There are an estimated 780 persons who
are newly diagnosed with HIV infection, including AIDS, each year in South
Carolina.  Disaggregated by sex, 70 percent of new
infections occur among men and by race, more than seven out of every ten are
African Americans.

Stigma in the Bible Belt is a tremendous problem as the
negative attitudes and actions by community members and service providers
toward persons with HIV and those at risk keeps people from getting an HIV test
to know their status, HIV care and treatment, or participating in HIV
prevention services.  November 24,
2009 Columbia’s local newspaper, The State, had the following headline in the
Metro Section; Hate Crimes for race, religion, sexual orientation rise in
S.C.  The article reported a 20 percent
increase over the previous year. 
In Columbia, sexual orientation led, with race 2nd in

Numerous problems were presented recently by an eclectic group
of self advocates, family members and providers when staff from the White House
Office of National AIDS Policy held a public forum in Columbia SC in October
2009.  In addition to stigma, these
problems include:

  • Reaching
    Infected and High Risk Persons with Limited Technology
  • Physician
  • Homelessness
    and Unstable Housing
  • Geographic
    HIV Funding Disparities
  • Corrections
    Population Challenges
  • High
    Teen Pregnancy and STDs Rates Among Youth
  • Unacceptably
    Large HIV Client Case Loads
  • High
    HIV and STD Rates
  • Lack
    of HIV/STD and Viral Hepatitis Prevention Funds
  • Need
    for Expanded Testing Resources
  • Lack
    of Transportation
  • Need
    for Consumer Training to Deliver Peer-Based Services
  • Increasing
    Demand for HIV Primary and Specialty Care

The shame of it all is this: South Carolina is generally at
the top of the lists in which you desire to be at the bottom and vice
versa.  The needs are great; the
resources are scarce, if present at all.

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