COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) – As part of World AIDS Day on Thursday, state health officials are offering residents free screenings at local health departments throughout the state.

World AIDS Day, observed on December 1 of each year, is dedicated to those living with HIV, and those who have died, and is also a day for unity in fighting HIV.

“The CDC estimates that 15% of the more than 20,000 South Carolinians living with HIV do not know their status. Undiagnosed individuals risk transmitting HIV,” said Ali Mansaray, Director of DHEC’s STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division. “We must work together to find and link these fellow South Carolinians to health care, for their sake and the sake of our communities.”

According to state officials, there are about 19,437 residents living with HIV/AIDS, as of December 31, 2020. A large part of newly diagnosed residents are those aged 20 to 29.

In addition to free testing on Thursday, DHEC also mentions its Data to Care program that provides support to HIV-positive individuals and assists them with continuous medical care and treatment.

The agency is also hosting a World AIDS Day Community Candlelight Observance in the Charleston area on Thursday.

A testing location near your area can be found here.