CDC inquiry sought on HIV outbreak in West Virginia’s largest county

U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin on Monday submitted a congressional inquiry with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concerning an HIV outbreak in West Virginia’s largest county.

The West Virginia Democrat requested for the inquiry on behalf of the Kanawha County Commission two months after a CDC official warned that the county’s outbreak was ” essentially the most regarding within the United States.”

Commission President Kent Carper stated in an announcement that the outbreak “is a vital public well being concern and is deserving of our full understanding.”


In a letter to Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the CDC director, Manchin requested that the CDC assessment the fee’s considerations and reply by Friday.

Later Monday, Manchin launched a letter from the CDC saying it was keen to fulfill with public well being officers. It stated Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV-AIDS, can be included within the assembly.

In early February, Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the CDC’s chief of HIV prevention, gave a presentation at a gathering of a Kanawha County HIV process pressure.

“It is feasible the present case rely represents the tip of the iceberg,” Daskalakis stated. “There are seemingly many extra undiagnosed circumstances locally. We are involved that transmission is ongoing and that the variety of folks with HIV will proceed to extend except pressing motion is taken.”

March 9, 2021: In this file picture, Solutions Oriented Addiction Response organizer Brooke Parker shows an HIV testing equipment in Charleston, W.Va. 
(AP Photo/John Raby)

The fee’s letter to Manchin requested whether or not the CDC has accomplished an official investigation into the county’s HIV surge. The letter stated the fee is worried that the statements referring to the outbreak as essentially the most regarding within the nation “are being made with out factual and empirical proof.”

As lately as 2014, solely 12.5% of HIV circumstances in West Virginia had been the results of intravenous drug use. By 2019, 64.2% had been, based on state well being division knowledge. The improve was due primarily to clusters in Kanawha and Cabell counties.


Kanawha County, which incorporates Charleston and has 178,000 residents, had two intravenous drug-related HIV circumstances in 2018. The quantity grew to fifteen in 2019 and a minimum of 35 final yr, stated Shannon McBee, a state epidemiologist.

By comparability, New York City, with a inhabitants of greater than 8 million, recorded 36 HIV circumstances tied to intravenous drug use in 2019, based on the CDC. Counties in different states with populations just like Kanawha had a median of lower than one HIV analysis amongst individuals who inject medicine, Daskalakis stated.

The surge, clustered primarily across the capital of Charleston and the town of Huntington, is being attributed a minimum of partially to the cancellation in 2018 of a needle trade program that supplied clear syringes to injection drug customers not capable of give up the behavior altogether.

Needle trade applications are included within the CDC’s suggestions for controlling illness outbreaks amongst intravenous drug customers. Such applications exist in dozens of states, however they don’t seem to be with out their critics, together with in West Virginia, who say they don’t do sufficient to forestall or cease drug abuse.

With lower than per week left within the common session, the state Legislature is contemplating a invoice to control needle trade suppliers.


The nonprofit group Solutions Oriented Addiction Response gives addicts with clear needles in Charleston and group shares details about HIV testing with residents, together with the homeless. SOAR co-founder Sarah Stone has stated the laws might shut down her group’s needle trade program.

Citing the pending state invoice, the Charleston City Council on Monday night time postponed voting on a proposed needle trade ordinance till April 19.

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