The red ribbon laid out on the state house stairs is a universal symbol of supporting people living with HIV and the U=U sign represents when a HIV positive person cannot transmit the virus to another person. Photos by Julie Crosby

World AIDS Day has been observed at the South Carolina State House on Dec. 1 for the past five years. For the first time ever, Wednesday’s event was run by students. 

Bella Alonso and Julia Budiongan, two University of South Carolina students pursuing master’s degrees in public health, joined together as co-chairs to prepare speeches and informational tables as well as organize community outreach efforts to attract members of the Columbia community towards the cause.

“Overall it’s been pretty positively received,” said Budiongan.

Among the most important announcements: In observance of World AIDS Day, DHEC will offer free HIV, Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted disease testing at local health departments on Thursday, Dec. 2. 

The two students share a common interest in advancing public knowledge of general sexual health, as well as de-stigmatizing sexually transmitted diseases and infections to promote prevention. 

“In such a stigmatized illness, where it feels like you really have to put a face to a name in order to destigmatize it, it really helps to have so many community members and organizations here today,” said Alonso.

Supporting organizations included Cooperative Health, a primary care physician service, Gilead Sciences Inc., and the Community Health Organization of Columbia.

Alonso and Budiongan also joined a mass media campaign with the Kaiser Family Foundation as well as partnered with Elizabeth McLendon, the community advocate for the Ending the Epidemic program at the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. 

The event featured multiple speakers who also live streamed speeches on the Ending the Epidemics SC Facebook account in hopes of reaching an even broader community.

“DHEC shows that as of December 31st, 2019, over 20,000 South Carolina residents were living with HIV, including AIDS,” said Robin Delmond, an honors student at the University of South Carolina and the cultural chair for the Sigma Omega Upsilon international business fraternity.

Delmond read a message from Gov. Henry McMaster. 

“In this 40th anniversary year of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, we recognize that this crisis is far from over, but we now have the tools necessary to end it,” McMaster said in his proclamation, officially declaring Wednesday as Ending the Epidemics S.C./Worlds AIDS Day. 

For more information about World AIDS Day events and local HIV testing sites, call DHEC’s S.C. AIDS/STD Hotline at 1-800-322-AIDS (1-800-322-2437).

UofSC students Bella Alonso and Julia Budiongan worked together to co-chair and plan the World AIDS Day event. 

This is the 40th anniversary of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. World AIDS Day is an opportunity for people to show their support for people currently living with HIV, AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases as well as remember those that have died. 

Robin Delmond announced the proclamation from Gov. McMaster officially declaring today as World AIDS Day. 

The event hosted many different health organizations to help promote better healthcare and prevention information for those living with HIV and AIDS. 


Julie Crosby

Julie Crosby

Julie Crosby is a fourth year multimedia journalism student from Charleston, South Carolina. As a former South Carolina State House intern, Crosby is particularly invested in writing stories that combine her passion for politics and education. She hopes to tell the stories of educators who are advocating for continued policy improvement for students in South Carolina. In her free time, Crosby enjoys reading and spending time with family and friends.

Meghan Hurley

Meghan Hurley

Meghan Hurley is an aspiring multimedia journalist in her senior year from Raleigh, North Carolina. As a young girl, she established an unwavering passion for storytelling, especially for the underdog. Her passion has translated into a general life approach of empathy, and patience, but more importantly, resilience. She depends on her love for human connection to aid her creative approach as she strives to bring a modern twist to her craft. Hurley’s personal work highlights her innate ability to tether thoughts to reality as she dives into discussions of mental health and relationships through an imaginative lens.