June Leffler Published

Kanawha County Plans Increased HIV Testing After Concerning Outbreak Drew National Attention

Drawing blood to test for HIV.

The Kanawha County Health Department will put more resources into HIV testing in the county.

This announcement comes one month after CDC officials said Kanawha County has the most concerning HIV outbreak among IV drug users in the nation.

The local health department said Friday it will bring on one more state disease intervention specialist. This person would track HIV cases and connect those with the illness to services. The department already employs two of these workers.

The health department also said it would work closer with local partners already offering harm reduction programs, medication-assisted therapy programs, and other resources for those with HIV. One effort would be to run a mobile HIV testing clinic with the help of the CAMC’s Ryan White Program and the West Virginia Division of STD and HIV.

The department did not mention any plans to reopen a syringe exchange program. The CDC says that this is a critical tool for combating the spread of HIV among IV drug users who could be sharing needles.

Last month the local health department wrote to West Virginia Public Broadcasting saying other organizations in Charleston are taking care of that need.

“There is a place for accountable, well-run, harm reduction programs with wrap-around services. Kanawha County has that in West Virginia Health Right’s program,” Chief Health Officer Dr. Sherri Young wrote.

Health Right offers a syringe exchange program on Charleston’s East Side.

A volunteer group called Solutions Oriented Addiction Response, or SOAR, also provides clean needles in the capital city.