GREENVILLE, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - According to health officials, 16 percent of people living with HIV in South Carolina don't know they're infected. Officials with the Department of Health and Environmental Control will host a series of forums to ramp up efforts of prevention.
 
“What we want to see ultimately is there to be a decline in the number of new cases," said Tony Price, Prevention Manager for DHEC.
 
DHEC is asking individuals living with HIV, caregivers, social workers, medical professionals and advocates to take part in a series of online forums geared at identifying any gaps or barriers that exist in delivering HIV prevention and care services in South Carolina.
 
AID Upstate in Greenville is an advocacy group that offers social services for those who are infected or are learning more about HIV. One way they increase prevention is through testing.
 
“Five to six per day for testing and that’s only because we need and hour between each visit to disinfect," said Jose Giocamea, AID Upstate Director of Community Relations.
 
COVID-19 did cause a decrease in testing. For the entire state, DHEC says there was a 60 percent decline between the first and second quarters of the year.
 
However, in the Upstate region the numbers are relatively equal to last year's, testing wise. 
 
“Back in March and April we were shut down, we did see a small decrease. However, our testing numbers from last year are basically the same. People are coming out to get tested,“ said Giocamea.
 
Last year AID Upstate tested approximately 1,500 people.
 
Rural areas draw more of a concern for advocacy and health leaders because of the lack of healthcare. Among them, priority targets are seeing a steady increase in rates of infections.
 
“Which is African American males in the area up here,” Giocamea said.
 
“Interestingly, we did see an increase in our positive rate for HIV testing in the second quarter,” said Price.
 
A few other issues with prevention is the stigma surrounding HIV, financial resources, and education.
 
DHEC has received $1M in grant funding from the Health Resources and Services Administration to keep fighting the epidemic.
 
“Likewise, we are really happy to see that we got full funding for our prevention for HIV through the CDC. We previously were operating with a $5.1M federally; and we have been given an additional $2.7M.”
 
No area of the state is immune to HIV. However, the Midlands has seen a greater need for care.
 
Forums are slated to kick off virtually at 7:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, August 26.
 
To attend a forum, just register at schpc.org/events

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