Lowcountry AIDS Services received a grant of $9,412 from the Employees Community Fund of Boeing South Carolina that will be used to provide free hepatitis C testing to low-income and uninsured tri-county residents at the LAS office in North Charleston.
With an estimated 2.7 to 3.9 million people in the United States with chronic hepatitis C, LAS has identified free hepatitis C testing as an important public health service. LAS currently offers free and confidential HIV testing at its North Charleston location Monday through Thursday.
“As many risk factors for HIV are also risk factors for hepatitis C, the addition of this free testing will greatly enhance the scope of health screenings we complete through our HIV/STI prevention program,” said Brad Childs, executive director at LAS. “We never want people to forego important health screenings because of the cost. Our organization is committed to providing our community with accessible health information and we are grateful to Boeing and their generous teammates for giving us the opportunity to expand our testing program.”
LAS intends to provide 400 individuals with free hepatitis C testing as a result of this grant. Funding provided will also cover educational initiatives to bring to light hepatitis C and testing options for the entire tri-county region and area residents.
Hepatitis C screenings can be costly and most primary care doctors do not regularly offer this test unless an individual is experiencing acute symptoms. But, more than 70 percent of those with hepatitis C don’t actually have any symptoms, therefore, providing free and easily accessible testing is critical to finding those living with hepatitis C and getting them connected to medical care. Any individuals testing positive for hepatitis C will be provided with medical care options. Upon diagnosis, hepatitis C is treatable.
Hepatitis C is usually spread through infected blood. Before 1992, when widespread screening of the blood supply began in the United States, hepatitis C was commonly spread through blood transfusions and organ transplants. Today, most people become infected with the hepatitis C virus by sharing needles or other equipment to inject drugs.
Testing for hepatitis C is particularly recommended for individuals who:
- Were born from 1945-1965.
- Received donated blood or organs before 1992.
- Have ever injected drugs, even if it was just once or many years ago.
- Have certain medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease and HIV or AIDS.
- Have abnormal liver tests or liver disease.
- Have been exposed to blood from a person who has hepatitis C.
- Are on hemodialysis.
- Are born to a mother with hepatitis C.
In the last decade, more than 400 new cases of hepatitis C have been identified in Charleston, Berkeley and Dorchester counties.
Hepatitis C testing will be available from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday at the LAS office, 3547 Meeting Street Road. Free HIV testing is also available at those times. Testing is free and confidential and no appointment is needed. For more information, visit www.aids-services.com.