The Charleston community is facing a HIV epidemic, especially among young people under the age of 30, according to a new report by Lowcountry AIDS Services. The local nonprofit released today – on World AIDS Day – its “State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Charleston” report.
Year to date, Lowcountry AIDS Services has administered almost 1,500 HIV tests in the tri-county area. Of those, 37 have tested positive and the majority are young African-American men. Additional testing is being done daily and more positive tests are being recorded.
By comparison, the agency recorded 20 positive tests in 2014; 23 in 2013; 16 in 2012; and 22 in 2011.
“As we began looking at the number of HIV positive tests in 2015, it became clear the HIV infection rate wasn’t improving in our community. In fact it was worsening,” said Brad Childs, executive director of Lowcountry AIDS Services. “And what was particularly frightening was the high number of HIV positive tests among people under the age of 30. Clearly the youth in our community are facing a HIV crisis.”
In 2014, the largest number of HIV/AIDS cases in South Carolina were in those ages 13 to 29 (46%).
In its report, Lowcountry AIDS Services points to a variety of reasons for this rise in HIV infections, including socioeconomic disparities and higher rates of poverty, particularly among African-American youth. Plus, sex education is largely absent from South Carolina schools, which leaves young people learning about sex from their friends, the Internet and the media.
“Contributing to this issue is the fact AIDS doesn’t receive the same level of attention as it did in the 1990s. It doesn’t seem as ‘scary’ as it once did, so it’s just not something young people think about,” Childs said. “They don’t fear it and don’t think it will happen to them.”
In addition to highlighting the numbers in “State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Charleston,” Lowcountry AIDS Services outlines its plans in 2016 for greater prevention, education and continued free HIV testing at its office and locations around the community. The report also highlights several ways the community can help fight this epidemic, including hosting educational sessions at businesses, schools or club meetings, encouraging local school districts to teach comprehensive sex education, getting a HIV test and supporting the work of Lowcountry AIDS Services.
View the complete “State of the HIV/AIDS Epidemic in Charleston” online athttp://www.aids-services.com/news/state-of-the-hivaids-epidemic.
About Lowcountry AIDS Services
Lowcountry AIDS Services is nonprofit organization serving men, women and children living with HIV/AIDS in Berkeley, Charleston and Dorchester counties. LAS provides case management, access to medical care, housing assistance, financial assistance, nutritional assistance and legal assistance along with an array of other supportive services to hundreds in the Charleston area. LAS also works to prevent this epidemic through education, media campaigns, community outreach and free, daily HIV/STD testing. For more information, visit aids-services.com.