Centers for Disease Control officials have detected a trend in West Virginia: An HIV outbreak on Kanawha County. This is an indicator that a syringe-return program is needed, CDC officials said.

In 2018, there were only two HIV cases tied to drug use in the county. In 2019, there were 15. Last year, there were 35, an epidemiologist at the state's Department of Health and Human Resources said. The rate of increase is alarming, especially when you compare those figures to data from New York City, where there were 36 HIV cases linked to IV drug use in 2019.

The CDC recommended the creation of a syringe program to fight the spread of diseases linked to intravenous drug use, mainly HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. The agency also recommended a community education program so the public will understand the importance of clean needles in slowing and ultimately eliminating the spread of disease from IV drug users.

The situation in West Virginia is important to the Ashland area because a rise in HIV cases could easily happen here. There are plenty of IV drug users here. Deadly diseases such as HIV know no boundaries, and Kanawha County is an easy hour’s drive from Ashland. There is every reason to be concerned and to take measures to protect ourselves and our loved ones.

The Ashland-Boyd County Health Department offers a needle exchange, and everyone needs to spread the word. Drug addicts will use drugs, clean needles or not. If they have the chance to use clean needles, maybe they will, if not to protect themselves, to protect the ones they love.

Reach the health department at (606) 324-7181.

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