NORTH CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The organization known as Lowcountry AIDS Services has a new name it says reflects changes in the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Officials revealed the new name, Palmetto Community Care, Thursday, spokesperson Holly Fisher said.
The rebranding comes as treatment for people with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has progressed to the point that fewer HIV-positive people are progressing to an AIDS diagnosis.
"For more than 25 years our agency has been giving our clients purpose, hope and a path forward. We help them see that a HIV diagnosis isn't the end and that with proper medical care and support they can live a full life," Executive Director Bradley Childs said. "That aspect of our organization won't change. We will continue to provide the same excellent care and the breadth of services to people living with HIV in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties."
Removing "AIDS" from the group's name also eliminates some of the stigma people using the organization's services felt, Fisher said.
"We know the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS is very real, so changing the name of our organization is one small way we can combat that stigma and help our clients and the community as a whole," Jason Kirk, director of development and marketing, said.
Earlier this year, the organization announced it was adding a mobile testing van to its prevention program. This new initiative is designed to reach rural and high-needs communities. A $50,000 grant from the Elton John AIDS Foundation made it possible, Fisher said.
The mobile testing van will be on the road this month, allowing the organization to further its efforts of expanded testing, outreach and HIV prevention education to rural areas of Dorchester and Berkeley counties as well as targeted high-risk communities in Charleston County.
"Even though the perception is that the HIV epidemic is over, we see daily that is just not the case," Kirk said. "Thanks to medical advances, people diagnosed with HIV can go on to live full, productive lives. Yet, at the same time, not everyone has equal access to medical care and those life-saving medications. That's where our organization steps in - helping those clients who are most vulnerable to get the help they need."
For information on how to schedule a stop with the mobile testing van, contact Adam Weaver, prevention manager, at 843-747-2273.
In January 2018, the organization recorded the most positive HIV tests in its history. Of those who came in for a free HIV test in January, seven tested positive for HIV. Underscoring the issue that HIV is disproportionately impacting youth, all seven of those people were under the age of 30.
In all of 2017, 20 people tested positive for HIV at Lowcountry AIDS Services. The agency tests an average of 1,600 people annually.