"The care I received in the City of Columbia changed my life. I had lost all hope before being linked to an amazing team of caregivers from case workers, doctors, and benefits managers who provided me the resources to find safe, affordable housing. I am grateful to the City of Columbia for not only saving my life, but for giving me the voice to share my story and be an advocate for PLHIV everywhere.”
Community Leadership Messages
I am proud of South Carolina for coming together as a state to end the epidemic. By focusing on the EtE pillars, we have been successful in our efforts to achieve early diagnosis, rapid engagement and retention into care. Our Tele-health for PrEP initiative has also made great progress both among providers and consumers in the City of Columbia, Richland County, and beyond. I look forward to continuing our efforts to educate providers, particularly in the Emergency Departments to carry out rapid engagement for same day treatments. As a fast-track city, we will also continue to align our efforts across state lines with stakeholders in North Carolina through the Carolina’s United to End HIV (CUE-HIV) program, and I look forward to making continued progress in the coming years.
Doing the right thing in the right place (at the right time) is the guiding principle behind the Fast-Track Cities initiative, and with Columbia being the most impacted City in our state and among the most impacted in the nation, there is hardly any place more ready for going over and beyond to end the HIV epidemic. With opportune leadership at the City Hall, SCDHEC and the community, great collaboration and coordination among all stakeholders and across all sectors, and ever improving and efficacious tools and strategies, the ending of the HIV epidemic here is no longer a matter of if, but when. Thus, we are all committed to end it fast and end it now! We are delighted to be a Fast-Track City, and we thank IAPAC, mayor Benjamin and the residents of the City for it!
As a proud native of Columbia, South Carolina, who spent 21 years (1978-1999) in San Francisco during the first overwhelming years of the epidemic, I am deeply moved that Columbia chose to become a Fast-Track City. After losing over 200 people to the HIV epidemic during the 1980s and early 1990s, I moved back to South Carolina, where I mistakenly thought I had left the worst of the epidemic behind me. In fact, for 1999, the CDC ranked San Francisco 6th in the nation in the rate of new diagnoses of AIDS; whereas, Columbia ranked 4th! Since then, San Francisco dropped out of the top ten “Hot Spots”, while Columbia consistently remains. Despite our alarming rates of new infections, Columbia as a city and South Carolina as a state have a critical mass of outstanding people partnering to address our health crisis. Public and Private partners throughout South Carolina have joined to form the ENDING THE EPIDEMICS SC campaign, the vision of which is “A South Carolina free of new cases of HIV, STDs, Viral Hepatitis and Substance Use Disorders.” Columbia, our capital city, is a Fast-Track City. Charleston joined the fight, too. More South Carolina cities are in discussion. Together, we WILL stop the HIV epidemic by 2030.
As a resident of Columbia and the Co-Chair of the HIV planning committee, becoming a Fast-Track City has given us the opportunity to delve deeper into the communities we serve. Like never before, we are able to unify stakeholders around one table for a single cause. I am beyond thankful for where we have been, and look forward to continuing the work as a Fast-Track City into the future.