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STD/HIV Program

HIV/AIDS in South Carolina

In South Carolina, almost 15,000 of your neighbors — including about 200 children and teens — are living with HIV infection or AIDS. 

Throughout the United States, more than 1 million residents are living with HIV or AIDS, and nearly one-fifth do not know they have it. Each year, more than 56,000 new cases are diagnosed. An estimated 600,000 U.S. citizens have already died from the virus.*

Worldwide, more than 60 million people, including millions of children, have been infected since the early 1980s. As many as 25 million people have died from AIDS.**

*U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
** Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS

Basics of HIV and AIDS

HIV is a virus that attacks and weakens a person’s immune system. The immune system is made up of a network of cells, tissues, and organs that work together to protect the body and fight off germs and diseases.

If the immune system of an HIV-positive person gets so weak that it can no longer fight off a range of health problems it would normally be able to cope with, the person is considered to have AIDS.

HIV can be passed from person to person through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, breast milk and other body fluids. It can happen:

  • When a person has sex with someone who has the HIV virus and they do not use a condom
  • When people exchange infected needles or syringes
  • During pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding, when an HIV-positive mom can pass the virus to her baby (although, with effective treatment and care the risk of transmission from mother to child can be greatly reduced).

There is no cure for HIV, but there are medicines that can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy. So long as a person gets proper medical treatment for HIV, they can usually live a healthy, active life. (However, when HIV is diagnosed after a person has had it for a long time, medical treatment may be less effective.)

Here are steps you should take to protect yourself from the virus:

  • Abstain from sex or use a condom when having sex.
  • Never share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.
  • If you are sexually active, get tested.
  • Act aware.

Act Aware — What it Means and Why it’s Important

“Acting aware” means:

  • Taking care of your own health and wellbeing
  • Acting responsibly to protect the health and wellbeing of others
  • Treating everyone living with HIV fairly and with understanding.

That last point is important. Many people who have HIV find it hard to tell other people they have the virus. Some have had to deal with rejection from friends, family or colleagues and have even experienced verbal or physical abuse.

There is still a great deal of ignorance about how HIV is transmitted, a lack of understanding of what it’s like to live with HIV, and unfair assumptions and judgments made about people who get HIV. The stigma keeps many people from getting tested and treated.

We know that regularly testing people most at risk for HIV — and then providing antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients — dramatically reduces the number of new infections. Without treatment or education, people will continue to transmit the virus to their partners.

By acting aware, you become part of the solution.