South Carolina ranks ninth among states in terms of HIV rate at 13.2 per 100,000 people, with 19,437 people living with HIV/AIDS as of the end of 2020, according to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.
HIV or human immunodeficiency virus is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). There is currently no effective cure. Once people get HIV, they have it for life. But with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. People with HIV who get effective HIV treatment can live long, healthy lives and protect their partners.
At WakeUp Carolina, we offer Rapid HIV testing. It is a very quick process that consists of a finger-stick blood draw, with results in as little as 60 seconds. We also provide the person being tested with a $10 gift card.
We partner with other organizations such as local recovery centers and homeless shelters so that we can provide testing to populations who otherwise would not have access to these kinds of services.
HIV is shrouded by myths and misconceptions in the low country area. Don’t get it twisted – HIV is a serious diagnosis, but it is not the “death penalty” that it was in the previous century. People also commonly think that HIV has not been a serious problem since the 90s. Even though HIV was much more common in that time period, there are still tens of thousands of people who are living with HIV, and over 800 new diagnoses last year alone.
Frequently Asked Questions and Misconceptions
If I am HIV positive, my life is ruined.
In the early years, when the disease was epidemic and no treatment was available, the death rate from AIDS was extremely high. But today’s drugs allow people who have HIV or even AIDS to live much longer, normal, and productive lives. If you start drug treatment right away and take it correctly, it’s possible you won’t ever develop AIDS. And you may live as long as you would have without the virus.
What do I do if my rapid test is positive for HIV?
Rapid HIV test only detects HIV antibodies. If your Rapid HIV Test shows a preliminary positive you will be referred to a blood draw lab or clinic so that a confirmatory blood draw test can be done. You cannot be officially diagnosed with HIV until the confirmatory blood draw has been done.
Can I contract HIV from being around people who are HIV-positive?
HIV cannot be spread through casual contact. The virus can only be transmitted through certain body fluids including blood, semen, rectal fluid, vaginal secretion, and breast milk. HIV is not spread through saliva, sweat, tears, or even mosquito bites.
Only gay men can get HIV.
Although the infection rates are more prominent in gay and bisexual men. Anyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, or sexual orientation can become infected with HIV. For new HIV-positive cases reported from 2015 to 2019, male-to-male sexual contact accounted for 69%, and male-to-female sexual contact made up for 23% of diagnoses.
Can Birth Control Prevent HIV?
HIV can be spread through unprotected sex. Most forms of birth control only prevent pregnancy. The best single way to prevent both HIV and pregnancy during sexual intercourse is by using a condom. However, using a combination of prevention methods like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) for HIV and one of a wide range of birth control methods provides even better protection
Can you tell someone has HIV by how they look?
It’s normal for people with HIV to not look or feel sick. In fact, the CDC reports one in seven people who are infected with HIV don’t even know it. The only way to know if a person has HIV is for them to get tested and share their positive results.
Can HIV be cured?
Currently, there is no cure for HIV. Medicine can help people who have the virus live long, healthy lives. Treatment can even reduce one’s viral load to an undetectable (an un-transmittable) level.