World AIDS Day – ABC Columbia

COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) – To p.t. people gathered on the steps of South Carolina State House to raise awareness about HIV in honor of World AIDS Day. DHEC from South Carolina as well as other community organizations have encouraged people to stop the spread of HIV.

Often times, HIV stigma can be rooted in misconceptions and myths and can be hurtful to those with the virus. Elizabeth McLendon, who is a volunteer with the Diocese of Upper South Carolina’s HIV ministry, said the event focused on raising awareness about prevention and advancements in care.

“This is the 40th year of the HIV pandemic and while the drugs are phenomenal, the mainstream stigma and madness is still rampant,” McLendon said.

McLendon says the HIV care that is now available is helping many people live successfully with the virus and not spread it. She also says that this type of event teaches “U = U” which means undetectable is equivalent to untransmissible. “If you lower your virus to an undetectable level – it never went away – but at least it’s undetectable and you can’t transmit it intimately.”

Bella Alonso and Julia Budiongan are students at the University of South Carolina who helped organize the event and both helped update DHEC’s Not in Care card. which shows approximately 45 hundred people living with HIV and not receiving care in South Carolina.

“It was shocking and it was really important to focus on these events so that these events could encourage more care,” Budiongan said.

Alonso says 17-24 year olds most affected by HIV she wants to help educate her classmates.

“The home tests and kits that are offered so widely in South Carolina through DHEC and other organizations have come as a shock because they are so readily available. And these are just things we didn’t know and probably a lot of people don’t know, ”Alonso said.

Organizers say anyone can help raise awareness about HIV by talking about HIV prevention and care with family and friends.

About Bradley J. Bridges

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