HARTSVILLE, S.C. - As part of Hepatitis Awareness Month, CareSouth Carolina is offering free testing to Pee Dee residents at two separate locations through its Care Innovations program.

An estimated 4.1 million Americans are infected with the Hepatitis C virus (HCV), but more than 50 percent don’t know it.

On Friday, May 17, Care Innovations will conduct free testing from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Walgreens (901 South Fifth Street) in Hartsville and from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Lamar Recreation Center (216 North Darlington Avenue, Bld. 5).

“Hepatitis C can be very deadly, yet common and more often is an invisible result of this nation’s opioid crisis,” Director of Care Innovations Brodderick Roary said. “By consistently testing people who inject drugs within our communities for Hepatitis C infection, treating the ones who test positive and preventing new transmissions we hopefully will lessen the devastating effects the growing opioid epidemic. With the right treatment and preventions efforts we can potentially eliminate Hepatitis C as a public health threat within our lifetime.”

Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and there are approximately 17,000 new cases each year.

Even though there has been an overall drop in the numbers of new HCV infections since the 1980s, there is evidence that rates of new infections may be rising among young adults, and the most common risk factor accounting for these new infections was injection drug use, according to Heath Union LLC.

CareSouth Carolina is a private, non-profit community health center delivering patient-centered health and life services in the Pee Dee region of South Carolina. CareSouth Carolina operates centers in Bennettsville, Bishopville, Cheraw, Chesterfield, Dillon, Hartsville, Lake View, Latta, McColl and Society Hill.

Services provided by CareSouth Carolina include family practice, internal medicine, pediatrics, women services, OB/GYN, HIV/AIDS primary care, dental, chiropractic services, pharmacy, substance-use prevention, geriatrics, social services, clinical counseling, laboratory, 4D ultrasound, X-Ray, migrant services and veteran’s choice provider.