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National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is this Friday, Feb. 7. DHEC is offering free STD testing at clinics across the state on Friday.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is Thursday. The Department of Health and Environmental Control is providing free STD testing in recognition of this day at DHEC clinics across the state.

Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day aims to spread awareness about the "disproportionate impact" these viruses have on African-Americans, according to a DHEC press release.

“Taking that first step of getting tested keeps you knowledgeable and in control of your own health,” DHEC Director of STD, HIV and Viral Hepatitis Division Ali Mansaray said in a press release.

DHEC data from 2016-2017 shows that African-Americans in South Carolina had an HIV/AIDS case rate that was 6.3 times greater than that of Caucasians in the state. Of the 19,749 people living in South Carolina with HIV/AIDS, 70 percent were African-American.

According to the data, the majority of patients newly diagnosed were in their 20s.

"This annual observance reminds us of how significantly African-American communities are affected by HIV and what can be done to change that,” said Linda Bell, state epidemiologist and director of the agency's Bureau of Communicable Disease Prevention and Control. "Getting screened, as you would for any other possible health threat, can have a big impact in reducing the stigma of HIV and reducing HIV infections among African-Americans."

The local DHEC clinic is located at the Aiken County Health Department at 222 Beaufort St. N.E. For more information visit scdhec.gov or call 855-472-3432.

Kristina Rackley is a general assignment reporter with the Aiken Standard.