Columbia, SC (WLTX) - A Midlands church is tackling the HIV epidemic head on.

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Columbia held their first ever HIV Testing Day Thursday.

Deacon Dianna Deaderick said they offer testing on a regular basis but felt that they needed to do so on a larger scale because of how big the problem is.

“It’s very prevalent in the African American community,” Deaderick said the HIV epidemic is a civil rights issue.

Reports show that South Carolina is ranked 7th in the nation for the rate of new cases. Columbia is ranked 5th for the cities with the newest cases.

“It’s a health issue. We need to quit thinking of it as a bedroom and a sex issue but a health issue and the church has got to be involved,” Deaderick explained.

The deacon said Christians are challenged to help the least of these in the Bible and said things are not going to change unless the faith community gets involved.

The event included free HIV tests, condoms, food and gifts.

“It affects everybody and everybody needs to know their status,” Deaderick said.

More than 100 people attended the St. Luke's event. The National HIV Testing Day is on June 27.

For more information, please visit: