South Carolina and North Carolina health officials are coming together with the goal of reducing the number of HIV infections in the Carolinas by 90 percent in the next 10 years.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced Tuesday the creation of the Carolinas United to End HIV, or CUE-HIV, a collaboration with health officials and researchers based in both states.
The goal of the collaboration is to reduce the number of HIV infections in the two states by 75 percent in the next five years and 90 percent in the next 10 years.
This comes after South Carolina was targeted by the Trump administration as one of seven states to help virtually eradicate HIV by 2030. South Carolina has many cases in rural areas of the state.
In addition to those seven states, several counties and cities across the U.S. were highlighted as well for the same reason. North Carolina's Mecklenburg County was one of those counties.
DHEC said in a media release the collaboration will involve increased pushes for awareness. The release said the partnership will help locate cross-state networks where people from rural areas gravitate to larger cities to find sexual partners because of social stigmas.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, men who have sex with men are at higher risk of contracting HIV.
"The CUE-HIV collaborative was born out of the knowledge that HIV does not stop at state borders, especially in the era of social media and on-line dating," DHEC officials said.
Palmetto Community Care, a health organization based in the Lowcountry, reported 23 positive cases of HIV from their testing in 2018. This was an increase from what they reported in 2016 and 2017.
As of December 2017, almost 20,000 South Carolina residents were living with HIV, according to the health department. North Carolina's health department reports over 35,000 residents are infected.
Bradley Childs, executive director of Palmetto Community Care, said in an email that his group believes the new partnership will greatly reduce new HIV cases in the Carolinas.
"Such collaboration allows Palmetto Community Care (PCC) and other AIDS Service Organizations to provide more community outreach to those that are in need of HIV prevention education and awareness," Childs wrote.
The partnering cross-state officials also plan to increase funding and the availability of resources in the Carolinas.
Some of the collaborators in the cross-state partnership include the Medical University of South Carolina, the University of South Carolina, the Mecklenburg County Health Department, and the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services.