From a candlelight vigil and walk-in testing service to quilt displays and documentaries, Charleston is gearing up for the Dec. 1 World AIDS Day by publicizing education efforts and planning related preparatory events.
All residents are invited to a Community Awareness Candlelight Vigil from 6:30-7:30 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Unitarian Church at 4 Archdale St. in downtown Charleston, sponsored by the Charleston Area World AIDS Day Committee and its volunteers.
A short reception with refreshments and live music will accompany the evening event. Additional plans include walk-in testing at Walgreens, Trident Tech College and the College of Charleston, with educational information; AIDS quilt panel displays at the Addlestone Library Nov. 29 through Dec. 5; a screening of the documentary “Whilimena’s War”; and numerous presentations and exhibits in the Charleston area.
“We know that working together as a community to fight HIV and AIDS, we can have a much larger impact,” Michael Luciano, treatment educator at Lowcountry AIDS Services and a past committee chair, said. “Many people think AIDS happens elsewhere, not here in Charleston. But our community is not immune to this disease.”
South Carolina ranks 13th out of all 50 states for infections; the Lowcountry recorded over 3,600 individuals with HIV/AIDS in 2015 as well as the state’s highest new infection rate in 2014.
“By having conversations and educating people, we can make a difference in the alarming number of new infections locally, and can break down the stigma for those living with HIV and AIDS,” Luciano said.
This year’s Charleston area World AIDS Day theme is “Connecting Communities” to increase an understanding of HIV’s existence in the immediate region and curtail epidemic-level incidences.
“We welcome everyone to be part of World AIDS Day this year,” Topher Larkin, outreach specialist for the Ryan White Wellness Center and committee co-chair, said. “The HIV epidemic is very real in South Carolina and in Charleston. By attending just one event, the community can become more aware and educated about how we fight this disease here at home.”