It’s a medical epidemic sweeping the state. The Centers for Disease Control reports Hepatitis C infections tripled from 2010 to 2015, and in West Virginia, the rate of infection is double the national average.
For Dr. Ayne Amjad, those numbers are too high.
“In terms of long term long health effects, it causes problems it causes liver cirrhosis it can cause depression in some people and you’re just seeing a lifetime of complications possibly.”
It’s a disease that doesn’t discriminate by age. Dr. Amjad said about a quarter of her new young patients are infected, and to keep that number from growing, she’s taking the fight to the source of many of the infections with a needle exchange program. Last year she partnered with the Beckley Pharmacy but she was forced to stop. She said after users received their new syringes some couldn’t make it out the parking lot before taking their next hit.
This time around Dr. Amjad said she’s changed her approach even though some say it does more harm than good.
“We’re doing it a little more low key this time. We are putting the needle box closer to the pharmacist so that he can actually see someone do exchanges rather than just come in say they dropped a needle and try to get a clean one.”
However, some people are torn about the effects of the program.
“One of the pros is that the people that do use they can go and get what they need do what they need with I guess…Definitely one of the cons is that i feel like its giving people reason to go and shoot up basically,” Samantha Tipton said.
Despite the criticism, Amjad believes the program will make a difference in the community. Right now, the program is the only one of its kind in Beckley.