Worlds AIDS Day

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WOLO) – Today people gathered on the steps of the South Carolina State House to raise HIV awareness in honor of World Aids Day.  South Carolina DHEC along with other community organizations encouraged people stop the spread of HIV.

Often times HIV stigma can be rooted in misconceptions and myths and can be hurtful to those who have the virus. Elizabeth McLendon who is a volunteer at Diocese of Upper South Carolina HIV Ministry says the event focused on raising awareness about prevention and the progress made in care. 

“This is the 40th year of the pandemic of HIV and even though the medicines are phenomenal, the stigma and foolishness of the general public is still rampant,” said McLendon. 

McLendon says the HIV care that is now available help many people to live with the virus successfully and not spread it. She also says these type of events teach about ‘U=U’ which stands for undetectable equals untransmittable.  “If you get your virus down to an undetectable level – it’s never gone – but at least it’s undetectable and you cannot transmit it intimately.” 

Bella Alonso and Julia Budiongan are students at the University of South Carolina who helped organize the event and both assisted with updating DHEC’s Not in Care Map which shows around 45 hundred people who are living with HIV and not receiving care in South Carolina. 

“That was shocking and really important to focus on so that these events can encourage more care,” said Budiongan. 

Alonso says since 17-24 year olds are the most impacted by HIV she wants to help educate her fellow classmates. 

“At home test and kits that are offered so widely around South Carolina through DHEC and other organizations was a shocker because it is so readily available. And these are just things that we didn’t know and probably a lot of people don’t know,” said Alonso. 

Organizers say everyone can help raise HIV awareness by talking about HIV prevention and care with their family and friends. 

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