Free HIV Testing in South Carolina

Free and low-cost testing locations near you.

South Carolina is situated in the Southeastern region of the United States. The state shares its borders on the north with North Carolina, southwest with Georgia, and southwest with the Atlantic Ocean. The capital of South Carolina is Columbia, while Charleston is its largest city. According to United States Census data 2019, the total population of South Carolina was 5.14 million consisting of people from various ethnic backgrounds.

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According to the census data, 2019 from United States Census Bureau, the biggest ethnic group in South Carolina is White Americans, who make up 68.8% of the entire population. Black or African Americans are ranked to be the second biggest group making 27% of the total population. Hispanic (6%) and Asian (1.8%) are present in minorities in the state.

Center for Disease and Control, CDC has ranked South Carolina 17th among the 50 US states regarding the number of active HIV cases. In the year 2015, an estimated number of 694 adults and adolescents were diagnosed with HIV. The numbers slowly climbed to 715 in 2018, making it a total of 17,405 people living with HIV in South Carolina.

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Why Testing Matters?

Human Immunodeficiency Virus, commonly known as HIV, is one of the deadliest viruses ever known. The virus can stay silent for years, weaken the immunity of the affected individual, and show no apparent symptoms. HIV progresses to become AIDS during the last stage, where the human body has almost no immunity left, and viruses like the common flu can cause mortality.

Testing for HIV can save the patient from long-term complications and control the spread of the virus. HIV can be spread through sexual contact, body fluids, using infected needles, etc. Therefore, it is crucial for people living in HIV-populated areas to get tested to save themselves from further illness and prevent their partners and others from contracting the virus.

Early testing and diagnosis results in an early onset of treatment and can potentially enable a person to live everyday life. Many studies have indicated that HIV-related mortalities are three times higher in case of later diagnosis. A late diagnosis is generally referred to as the last stage of the virus when HIV has already progressed to AIDS.

Considering the CDC guidelines, it is recommended for every individual to get tested for HIV at least once in their lifetime. However, in localities where the HIV active cases are present in higher numbers, annual testing for the virus is recommended.

As per health officials, around 16 percent of people living with HIV in South Carolina are not aware of their HIV-positive status. The numbers of HIV cases from 2015 to 2018 have also increased significantly, making testing highly important for all state residents.

Initiatives to Prevent HIV in South Carolina

South Carolina. Department of Health and Environmental Control, SCDHEC, has several programs designed specifically for low-income people living with HIV. These programs ensure the provision of essential medications and support services for the patients and their families.

SCDHEC has formulated a 34 voting member body called the HIV Planning Council. It is mandatory for the council to have at least seven members to be persons with positive HIV status. The primary mission of the planning council is to develop state-wide prevention as well as care plans.

South Carolina AIDS Drug Assistance Program ADAP is yet another state initiative to facilitate the HIV-positive patients belonging to low-income groups who cannot afford the medication and treatment costs. The program is further split into three parts known as the Direct Drug Dispensing program, Insurance Assistance Program, and Medicare Assistance Program. The kind of service received depends on the type of program the patient is enrolled in.

Health Resources and Service Administration, HRSA's program known as Ryan White HIV/AIDS program has been successfully operational in almost all country states for the last thirty years. Ryan White HIV/AIDS program is a federal government-funded project that provides funds to state bodies to provide medication, treatment, and other critical services to people living with HIV. State-based organizations use these funds to ensure outpatient, medication, early intervention, and health insurance services to those in need. This program also funds initiatives like food banks, transportation to and from the health cue centers, financial assistance programs, and various mental health services for HIV patients.

HIV Rates and Trends in South Carolina

White Americans are present in the majority in the state, making up 68.8 % of the entire population, followed by Black Americans (27%). Hispanic and Latin (6%) and Asians (1.8%) are also a part of the population.

There was a slight increase in the number of newly diagnosed cases during the last few years. In 2015 as per the CDC reports, the total numbers of newly diagnosed cases in the state were 694. During the year 2018, 17,405 people lived with HIV in South Carolina, of which 715 people were newly diagnosed with the virus.

Age, Gender and Ethnic Disparities

According to the AIDSvu’s HIV statistics report, in 2018, 17,405 people lived with HIV in South Carolina, of which 715 people were diagnosed during the same year. The rate of people living with HIV per 100,000 population in the year 2018 was 406. According to HIV/AIDS report 2018, 71 % of males and 29 % females were affected by the virus.

Black Americans make up 27% of the entire population, but they remain the biggest ethnic groups affected by HIV. 67.8% of the Black Americans, 23.5% of the White Americans, and 5.5 % of the Hispanic population made up the entire HIV positive population.

As per the same report, HIV was contracted more by individuals belonging to the age group 55 years and above. 27.7% of people living with HIV were 45 to 54 years, while 17.9% belonged to 25 to 34 years. Adolescents and young adults, 13 to 24 years of age, made 20.7% of the HIV-positive population.

The report also indicates that male patients' primary mode of transmission is gay or male-to-male sexual contact. 7.6% of the total reported cases were due to injection or drug use, while 14.9% of the male patients contracted the virus due to heterosexual contact. In females mode of transmission was mainly due to heterosexual contact (83%) and drug & injection use (14.5%).

HIV-related mortalities in the state of South Carolina during the year 2018 were 206. Of the total mortalities, 66% were males, while 34% were females. Similarly, as Black Americans were disproportionately affected by the virus, the number of mortalities of Black Americans was 65.5%, while White Americans made up 24.3% of the total number of mortalities.

Reviewed by Debby R, MD. Last updated on Jan 13, 2022