Citizens from all over South Carolina packed an auditorium at the Columbia Metro Convention Center Monday night to participate in a National HIV/AIDS event. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control was invited to take part in the federal Office of National AIDS Policy’s HIV/AIDS Community discussion. The comments filmed from the public will be taken to White House Administrators and other policy makers as they plan ways to reach the goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy.
South Carolina is ranked in the top ten states for the prevalence of AIDS cases.
Dr. Wayne Duffus(DUF-us like ROUGH-us), Director of the STD/HIV Division at the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, helped to open the program.
Dr. Duffus said that AIDS is grounded in poverty, and South Carolina is 41st among states in terms of its income. He also said that the state lacks transportation for AIDS patients, particularly because of its rural nature. And he said that the state’s rural character is also associated with a greater stigma surrounding the disease.
“It’s hard to keep your business private in a small, rural community,” said Duffus. “And because of that, people die in fear and shame and not go to church or school or traditional places for support.”
Duffus said seven out of ten AIDS cases in South Carolina are African American, even though only a third of the state’s population are African American. “What bothers me is that where you live in America determines the quality of and access to health that you receive,” said Duffus. “Unfortunately, the southeast and in particular South Carolina have been very disenfranchised from that treatment.”
The goals of the National HIV/AIDS Strategy are to reduce the incidence of HIV, increase access to health care, and reduce health disparities.