Offering free HIV/AIDS testing to people across the state, the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council’s mission is to provide screening services to hard-to-reach and high risk communities.
Dr. Francis LaMont Adams,the supervisor, estimates that they put 30,000 miles on the van taking the the mobile unit and testing department to colleges, clubs and communities—anywhere that will let them offer free HIV/AIDS testing .
If a person comes in and they’re diagnosed –first it’s preliminary positive for the virus, the antibodies surface in the test. Then we would do a blood draw and send that to DHEC for a confirmatory. Upon receiving a confirmatory, the person is diagnosed with HIV, then they’re sent to case management. We have a doctor here in town. She will take care of any client who comes through here positive.
Adams says his is the only unit in South Carolina that has the ability to go out and set up a lab and test on site. “We tend to like to go into areas where we can meet our target population, and that is people that are having sex and are at high risk,” says Adams.
Dr. Adams says that in South Carolina, 80% of the newly diagnosed HIV cases are of heterosexual, black females between the ages of 24 and 35 years.
When this virus first was aired 27 years ago, it was thought to be a white man’s –a white gay man’s disease. The face of it is rapidly changing. It is African-American women who are having sex with heterosexual men who are having multiple sex partners and are not using condoms with any of the partners. That’s the passage.
Dr. Adams says there is a need for everyone to be tested so there is a baseline.
If we were to be able to have everyone in this state tested, we would have a far better percentage as to what our rankings were of the state. We would have better numbers to approach our legislators and our congressmen, as far as the needs for financing to be in the prevention of this thing … and also, be in the caring part of it.
Adams says that all these things cost money, and while he feels they do “a great job with what we have and sometimes we go above and beyond, we do well with what we have. And if we had more, we could do better.”
Concerned about the continued spreading of the disease, Adams says,
This disease is going to destroy…,” Adams pauses, then continues. “….I would almost say (destroy) a race of people if we don’t do something about it. And we must know that it’s spreading. Last year we were ninth in the nation, now we’re eighth. That would tell us that there’s no declining in the contact of it. It’s rising daily.