CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - Charleston has one of the fastest growing HIV infection rates in South Carolina, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
75% of those cases are men, but the amount of women in our state with HIV is on the rise.
The black community has the highest number of infections.
Over 4,500 women are thought to be living with HIV or AIDS in our state. Eight out of 10 women with HIV in South Carolina are black.
Down the hall of Lowcountry AIDS Services a laugh can be heard. It lifts the spirits of everyone in the office.
"It's time for me to help someone else," said Donna Marshall.
Her goal in life is to make a difference. She's encouraging everyone to get tested this week for National HIV Testing Week.
She volunteers for Lowcountry AIDS Services in North Charleston. More than 2,000 people are helped there every year.
Marshall said "And I'm also a peer facilitator for one of the classes that they offer for women living with HIV."
Marshall teaches from experience
"I was diagnosed in 1991," said Marshall.
Her life changed forever after that visit to the doctor 23 years ago.
"It's been a challenge living with HIV," said Marshall.
Marshall says she was told she only had 5 years to live.
"I accepted it; I just went on as I was going to die," said Marshall.
That's when Marshall took a turn for the worse.
Marshall said, "Abusing my body, doing drugs, partying, drinking, and having a good time. I thought I was having a good time."
But in reality she says she was hurting her body.
"December 3rd, 2008 I had a heart attack and it really opened my eyes to where I was in my life," said Marshall.
Marshall says she accepted her status from that point on.
"Started getting more involved, knowing the statistics, knowing the numbers, started reading up more on it," Marshall said.
"You can't look at someone at tell that they have HIV," said Marshall.
That's one reason Marshall says everyone should have safe behavior and get tested.
Marshall said, "Worry about yourself and your life and if you have kids, think about your kids. You want to be here to take care of them."
Lowcountry AIDS Services does free testing for everyone.
They use a method where your results can be ready in 10 minutes.
Their office is located in North Charleston at 3547 Meeting Street Road.?