Local program raises HIV/AIDS awareness for World AIDS day

Local program raises HIV/AIDS awareness for World AIDS day

NORTH CHARLESTON (WCSC) - Sunday marks the 25th annual World AIDS Day.

South Carolina currently ranks 8th in the nation in the number of reported aids cases. Last year nearly 2,500 HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the Tri-County area.

Sunday, a local organization didn't just raise a candle for awareness but is also planning to put pressure on lawmakers for healthcare funding.

"I found out I was HIV-positive in June of 2003," said David Pable.

Pable was joined at a candle light vigil by family and friends of people who lost the battle to AIDS.

Pable is a patient and volunteer with the Ryan White Program at the Roper Saint Francis hospital.

"The medical resources that they provide truly have kept me alive," said Pable.

Last year the program helped more than 600 HIV patients in the community.

Pable said, "They're able to get you into care so they can make sure you're on the right medicine to help you keep focus."

As previously reported, a study by the Kaiser Family Foundation shows 200,000 in South Carolina fall into what is called a "coverage gap". As it stands now they don't qualify for Medicaid or any of the health insurance plans offered under the Affordable Care Act. This could put strain on some organizations trying to help the community.

"The Ryan White Grant is a grant that's renewed every year, but futuristically we may look at the grant not being able to keep up with the number of patients we have," said Ashley Redmond, director of the Ryan White Program.

State officials chose not to expand the Medicaid program, an essential part to making the Affordable Care Act work as planned.

Redmond says expanding Medicaid in our state wouldn't only benefit HIV patients, but also the state.

Redmond said, "The grant will always be there to take care of our patients. If we can tie the cost of caring for HIV patients now rather than later on when they're sick or not getting the care they need, there's a real cost tied to that and there's a real savings to the state tied to that."

Redmond says the Ryan White Program will continue to educate the community and she's looking forward to a future with no new HIV/AIDS cases.

The Ryan White Program will have a town hall forum in February pushing the expansion of Medicaid.

Monday afternoon from 11 to 2pm they will be hosting a food truck fair at Roper Saint Francis.

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