Calls for CDC investigation into 'most concerning' HIV outbreak in West Virginia after 35 cases reported

DOZENS of HIV cases have been reported in West Virginia – and lawmakers are calling for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to investigate.

Senator Joe Manchin sent the CDC an inquiry on Monday about an HIV outbreak that has been flagged as "the most concerning" outbreak in the US.

The CDC said they were "eager to meet with public health officials," and noted Dr Jonathan Mermin, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV-AIDS, would be in attendance.

According to the CDC, the outbreak is "an important public health issue and is deserving of our full understanding.”

In 2020, there were at least 35 reported cases of HIV in West Virginia's Kanawha County, as opposed to 15 cases in 2019.

Shannon McBee, the top epidemiologist with the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, said it continues to increase.

"There needs to be widespread community buy-in for progress to be made," McBee said in a speech Kanawha County’s HIV task force in February.

One of the biggest issues, experts have noted, is the lack of clean syringe needles.

"The surge comes from the 2018 cancellation of a needle exchange program that offered clean syringes to injection drug users not able to quit the habit altogether, " The Associated Press reported.

Syringe services programs (SSPs) are prevention programs that can provideaccess to and disposal of sterile syringes and injection equipment, vaccination, testing, and linkage to infectious disease care and substance use treatment.

Syringe programs are recommended by the CDC as a means to combat HIV.

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