CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - A group which aims to help people living with AIDS or HIV with medical care, resources, and support says it recorded more HIV positive tests in 2018 than in 2017.
Palmetto Community Care tested 1,700 people for HIV with 23 new HIV-positive cases, that’s three more positive cases than in 2017. Overall, more than 90 percent of those who tested positive identified as men who have sex with men. 75 percent were under the age of 30 and 56 percent were black.
Palmetto Community Care also provides free testing for sexually-transmitted infections. 72 people tested positive for chlamydia (an increase from 41 positive tests in 2017, 24 tested positive for gonorrhea (an increase from 15 positive tests in 2017), 17 individuals tested for syphilis (a decrease from 33 positive tests in 2017).
“There is only one way to know whether you are HIV-positive and that is to get tested and know your status. So, seeing more people get tested in 2018 means our education and outreach efforts are working,” said Adam Weaver, prevention program manager. “Yet it also shows that HIV and other sexually-transmitted infections are still a very real problem in our community. In 2019, we will continue our work to educate the community about safer sex practices and the importance of getting tested.”
The group also launched a program for a pill last year which is said to help combat the rising rate of HIV in Charleston. PrEP, also known as Truvada, is up to 99 percent effective in reducing HIV, according to Palmetto Community Care. By the end of 2018, 27 people were enrolled in the program.
In the Lowcountry Public Health Region, the latest data as of the end of 2016 indicates that at least 4,606 people are living with HIV/AIDS, the group said.
Palmetto Community Care also offers free, confidential testing for HIV as well as chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis at its office located at 3547 Meeting Street Road in North Charleston. Testing hours are 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and until 6 p.m. on Wednesdays. No appointment needed. Free condoms are also available.