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February 14 2022 12:00 am

130 new HIV cases predicted in Kanawha County by end of year


CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — COVID-19 has been making headlines for nearly two years now, but community health groups in Kanawha County want people to remember that the HIV outbreak has not gone away.

Covenant House, West Virginia Health Right, and the Ryan White CAMC Program have been working in partnership together to address the HIV outbreak.

On Tuesday they unveiled a new report they collaborated on.

They say a molecular cluster has been found in Kanawha County that is spreading at 12 times the rate of the national average.

In a recent social media post by Covenant House, the organization describes giving a young HIV-positive man two weeks’ worth of clothing, nutritional food, clean syringes, and they began working on housing opportunities for him — all in one visit.

These kinds of services, they say, will help stop the spread of HIV in Kanawha County: stable housing, case management, and prevention.

“The numbers are indeed compelling, and we don’t think they’re going to improve before they get worse,” said Ellen Allen, CEO of Covenant House.

“The numbers are indeed compelling, and we don’t think they’re going to improve before they get worse.”

ellen allen, ceo covenant house

In the report, they say 130 new HIV cases from injection drug use are predicted in Kanawha County by the end of the year.

That’s even with the help of the CDC, who during the summer sent personnel to Kanawha County to help locate HIV-positive patients.

“Unfortunately they had to leave, so we’ve not had that support and it’s been a challenge because resources are limited in West Virginia,” said Christine Teague, director of the Ryan White CAMC Program.

Exacerbating this said Teague, is a rise in syphilis cases, homelessness, and short-staffed hospitals.
As the year comes to an end, they say it’s important to talk about the HIV outbreak and understand why it’s happening.

“People don’t want to talk about it, and this after covid is perhaps the most consequential development and emerging health issue in our state,” said Allen.

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