Manchin asks CDC to look into West Virginia HIV outbreak
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) submitted a congressional inquiry on Monday to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to look into an HIV outbreak in his state’s Kanawha County.
ABC News reports that Manchin requested the inquiry on behalf of the Kanawha County Commission after the CDC warned the HIV outbreak there was “the most concerning in the United States.” Between 2014 and 2019, HIV cases in West Virginia that were attributed to intravenous drug use rose by more than 50 percent from 12.5 percent to 64.2 percent, ABC News reported.
Kent Carper, president of the Kanawha County Commission, said in a statement that the outbreak “is an important public health issue and is deserving of our full understanding.”
During a February meeting with the county’s HIV task force, the CDC’s chief of HIV prevention, Demetre Daskalakis, warned that the current numbers may represent “the tip of the iceberg.”
“There are likely many more undiagnosed cases in the community. We are concerned that transmission is ongoing and that the number of people with HIV will continue to increase unless urgent action is taken,” Daskalakis said.
On Monday evening, Manchin shared with the Kanawha County Commission that he had received a response from the CDC regarding his inquiry.
“We are eager to meet with WV Public Health officials to listen to their concerns regarding the HIV rate in West Virginia, and identify how CDC can assist in a way that meets the needs of the people of WV,” the CDC said in a statement shared by Manchin.
The agency stated that Jonathan Mermin, assistant surgeon general and acting director of the Center for Preparedness and Response, was aware of the situation in West Virginia and “is committed to being at the meeting and to assisting with this situation.”
The outbreak, which is primarily focused around Charleston and Huntington, has been partially attributed to the cancellation of a needle exchange program in 2018 that offered clean needles for drug users who were unable to quit.
The Charleston City Council is currently considering an ordinance that would restrict local needle exchange programs, ABC News reported. Sarah Stone, co-founder of Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR), which provides clean needles in Charleston, told ABC News that the ordinance would shut down similar programs.
Updated at 10:39 p.m.