COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA)- South Carolina saw an increase in newly diagnosed HIV cases from 2014-2016. And with opioid addiction on the rise in the state, health officials are concerned infectious diseases may follow.
“For the years 2016-2017 South Carolina ranks number 5 in the nation for HIV,” explained Bernard Gilliard, a STD expert with the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
In that two-year period, 2016-2017, 1520 people were diagnosed with HIV in the state, a slight increase from the two years prior (2014-2015).
Gilliard continued, “The South in general has a higher population or frequency of individuals who are positive.”
That is why the state health officials are encouraging you to get tested. Thursday was national HIV testing day and several health clinics across the state offered free testing.
“Knowing your status can empower you to seek medical care and have a better quality of health and life,” Gilliard added.
According to DHEC, men who have sex with men represent the largest proportion of newly diagnosed cases in the state. A small percentage of the cases were from injecting drug use; a risk factor health officials now have to consider in the opioid crisis.
Dr. Vanila Singh addressed a group of lawmakers earlier in the week. Singh explained the correlation between infectious diseases and opioid use.
“Heroin is an illegal opioid and worst yet it can only be injected through iv drug use. so that brings into this whole opioid crisis that infectious disease become a big part of this. Think of Hep C, HIV, now all of a sudden now that heroin being used and in such a fast manner; it’s increased 10 fold since 2010 now we know that clusters of Hep C and HIV are back of the rise.”
Because of this correlation the state has been working with recovery programs to get those patients connected with the appropriate treatments. DHEC will also be working with the CDC to find an intersection between the opioid use and HIV.
For 2017, Williamsburg County ranked #1 in the state for the rate of newly diagnosed cases per 100,000 people. There were 11 cases that year. Lee County followed with 6 cases for perspective the county only has 17,000 people.