West Virginia has three times as many cases of hepatitis as any other state in the nation.
A recent study by the CDC revealed that many of West Virginia’s counties are among the 220 counties identified as the most vulnerable to outbreaks of HIV and Hepatitis C due to needle sharing during drug use.
“We’re really not seeing that many people come in and get tested for HIV,” Sandie Davis said.
Which is surprising, since testing for HIV is free at many local health departments.
A recent health statistic indicates Raleigh and Mercer County have the highest rates of hepatitis in the state.
Davis, a public health nurse for the Mercer County health department, says the most common ways people can contract hepatitis or HIV is sharing needles.
“Do not inject drugs if you can not quit injecting drugs then you should only use clean needles and do not share needles with someone else,” Davis said.
To help stop spreading the epidemic, many programs, like needle sharing, have popped up in the state. Right now there is no program like that in southern West Virginia. South Central Educational Development in Bluefield helps those suffering from the incurable disease.
“They can research their medications, they can find clinical trials, they can look for other prevention and secondary prevention if they are positive,” Darryl Cannady said.
Cannady, the executive director for South Central Educational Development, says the organizations funds are drying up.
“The CDC has defunded the state by large amounts of dollars, we have not had any none traditional funding from the state since 2009,” he said.
If you are looking to be tested, please visit your local health department, the chances are the testing is free.