World AIDS Day is nearly upon us.
The annual Dec. 1 observation is a chance for people worldwide to unite to combat HIV, show support for people living with HIV and their families, and commemorate those who have lost their lives because of the disease.
Over 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV. The most recent statistics indicate nearly nineteen-thousand South Carolinians are living with HIV, and Aiken County saw 19 new infections (SC DHEC, An Epidemiologic Profile of HIV and AIDS in South Carolina 2017)
This year marks the 30th anniversary of global observance, with an aim to reduce stigma and educate individuals, families and communities, says Shiheda Furse, community manager for HopeHealth in Aiken, one of four HopeHealth infectious disease treatment and prevention centers.
The day reminds the public and government that there is still the need within the community of Aiken to raise support, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education around HIV.
Here are three ways you can make a difference on World AIDS Day:
Get an HIV test to know your own status. Ask questions to learn more about HIV and how it is and is not transmitted, and how to reduce the risk of infection.
Engage experts, such as those at HopeHealth in Aiken, where free testing is available.
“Individuals should use their sphere of influence and encourage their partners, friends and family members to be tested and to learn their HIV statuses,” Furse says. “Encourage them to learn the facts of HIV, as well.”
3. Look, listen and learn.
All the more fun if it's amidst community. That’s the point of HopeHealth’s 3rd annual Arts & Music Showcase taking place 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. Nov. 28 at the University of South Carolina Aiken’s Student Activities Center Mezzanine, 471 University Parkway.
You’ll be able to enjoy the artwork, music and poetry of local artists and musicians, and learn about HIV.
“People can come and bring their family and friends and help us empower others living with HIV,” Furse says.
All are welcome for an entertainment and learning experience combo.
“We want to have options out there for people to take part in our movement,” she says. “You can get knowledge of HIV, the services we’re providing the Aiken area, and also see where people can go for education of HIV, Hepatitis C and STDs.”
HopeHealth will provide free testing on site.
But you don’t have to limit yourself to a particular day or event to get information about HIV and AIDS education, prevention and treatment.
“It can be the whole month of December or the entire month of November,” Furse says. “We just want to show our Aiken community that we're here and our services are for them.”
Can’t make it to the showcase? No problem. HopeHealth in Aiken is ready with education, testing and treatment year round. The local center provides clinical care, case management and community support around hepatitis C, HIV, STDs and other infectious diseases solely.
For HIV, hepatitis C and STD testing, visit the center at 150 University Parkway, call 803-643-1977 or connect online at Hope-Health.org.