COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSAV) – The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) is organizing the inaugural PrEP Awareness Week.
PrEP Awareness Week is set for Sept. 28 through Oct. 3 and is themed “Get PrEPed.” The week includes free STD and HIV testing and educational webinars aimed at increasing awareness about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a pill that can help greatly reduce HIV infection if exposed to the virus.
PrEP was approved by the FDA in 2012 and is a daily pill for use by people who don’t already have HIV, but who are at risk for exposure.
“When someone is exposed to HIV through sex or through needle injection, this medicine can work to keep the virus from establishing a permanent infection,” said Ali Mansaray, director of DHEC’s STD, HIV, and Viral Hepatitis Division. “PrEP, when taken properly, can decrease an individual’s chances of contracting HIV through sexual contact by more than 90 percent and can reduce HIV among individuals who inject drugs by more than 70 percent.”
As part of PrEP Awareness Week, free and confidential STD and HIV testing can be scheduled at a local DHEC Public Health Department by calling DHEC’s Care Line at 1-855-4-SCDHEC (1-855-472-3432). Counseling is also available. To find a testing location nearest you, visit scdhec.gov/PrEP.
DHEC is also offering webinars for multiple groups.
For college students, the webinar “Let’s Talk About PrEP” provides clear, direct information about the truths and myths surrounding PrEP. For the religious community, DHEC offers “How faith-based organizations can help with ending the HIV epidemic and PrEP awareness.”
There are also PrEP webinars for health-care providers focusing on pharmacology, teen health, women’s health, transgender health, and the Latino/Hispanic community.
“We encourage everyone to join us during our inaugural PrEP Awareness Week to learn more about PrEP and to take advantage of free HIV/STD testing so that you can know your health status and better take care of yourself and others,” Mansaray said.
For more information about free testing and free virtual webinars, visit scdhec.gov/PrEP. The webinars will be available live and will be archived for later viewing on DHEC’s website.
In Savannah, the Coastal Health District will be offering free, confidential HIV testing on Sept. 25 in observance of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Learn more here.