HIV, an infection that was unheard of up until the early 1980s. It is a virus that can lead to AIDS and is spread through blood as well as body fluid exchanges.
However, it can also be spread through the exchange of needles and now states across the nation including West Virginia are at even a higher risk of an HIV outbreak.
“The numbers are higher in our area because of our drug use and we’re definitely at increase risk for that. So the most important thing, is protecting yourself. If someone has blood on their body, you need to make sure that you wear gloves if you are going to help that person. You are not going to get it through casual contact with somebody, working with somebody or living with somebody,” said Candance Hurd, Director of Nursing at the Beckley Raleigh County Health Department.
A recent report from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph stated that Mercer, McDowell and Wyoming counties are among more than 200 across the nation for a high risk of an HIV outbreak. Hurd added, “Because of the high IV drug use we are at a continued higher risk for that. I think that as a population we’ve become wiser in ways that it’s spread. We need to make sure that we are acting a little safer, safer sexual activities and we really encourage people to not use IV Drugs. But, if you do make certain that you are not sharing drug use paraphernalia.”
If you are someone who has come in contact with a person who is HIV positive and is concerned, the Raleigh County Health Department advises you to talk to that person and to also have a blood test done.
“You can certainly come to the Health Department, we do HIV testing, Hepatitis C testing, you know pretty much all the std tests or else you can see your primary care provider for that also,” said Hurd.