Putting the rubbers to the road

The Condom Nation Tour plans to distribute more than 10 million condoms across the country.

COLUMBIA (WACH) â?? According to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control, South Carolina ranks ninth in the nation for the rate of new HIV cases annually. South Carolina also ranks first among the United States and the District of Columbia in the cases of HIV from heterosexual relationships.

More than 48,000 cases of HIV are diagnosed in the United States each year, and there are over 19 million STD infections, according to Regional Mobilization Leader Elizabeth McLendon. McLendon points out that the use of a condom is 95 percent effective in preventing the spread of HIV and other STDâ??s

Veronica Brisco found out she was HIV positive in 1999. She thought she was in a committed relationship, and did not participate in drug use or other risky behaviors. She used condoms with her partner at the beginning of the relationship, and eventually they decided to stop using them. Her boyfriend was HIV positive.

"I don't know that he knew, and I definitely didn't know that he was HIV positive. So sometimes we walk around with HIV and don't even realize it. It's so important that we get tested, so important," said Brisco.

In an effort to educate, the Condom Nation Tour has embarked on a 25 state tour, including a stop in Columbia on Friday. The tour started in February in California. It will travel to Nevada, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, and several other states, to distribute more than 10 million condoms.

As part of the two stops planned in Columbia, the Condom Nation Tour will provide free condoms, education, and free HIV testing.

"I feel blessed to actually still be here," said Brisco. "I am excited to get this information out, that's what is important. So people can keep themselves healthy, get tested, and know that [HIV] doesn't have a face, [HIV] doesn't have a name," said Brisco.

The Condom Tour will be at the corner of Millwood and House Streets from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m., and at Tonyâ??s Snack Shop on Bluff Road from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

For more information on HIV/AIDS in the state of South Carolina including resources and testing sites, visit the South Carolina HIV/AIDS Council Website.