HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — As the number of HIV cases in Cabell County has risen again according to the state Department of Health and Human Resources, local health officials held public forum to educate about the disease.

The Cabell-Huntington Health Department hosted a public forum on Tuesday night for community partners, stakeholders and citizens for the opportunity to learn about the current HIV cluster which is now at 76 cases.

“We went over our intervention, our awareness, and education most importantly about the HIV cluster,” Elizabeth Adkins, Director of Health & Wellness/PIO for the department said.

The majority of the forum was question and answer sessions with panel leaders such as Dr. Michael Kilkenny, physician director of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department; Dr. Kara Willenburg, chief of infectious diseases at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine; Amanda Coleman, executive director for the Cabell-Huntington Coalition for the Homeless; and Melissa Pemberton, a technology specialist for Prosource.

“We certainly want to be able to be available for questions that people may have, their concerns they may have regarding the cluster,” Adkins said. “We just want to be able to make sure people understand why we are doing what we are doing.”

One of the things the department is doing is a harm reduction program. The public got the chance to learn about the program and why certain people should check it out.

Adkins said the best possible solution to reduce the numbers is to get tested routinely and educate those that are in situations where they have risky behaviors that can put them in HIV exposure.

The state DHHR office updates the number of HIV cases every Monday, which was previously at 73. That number is the only cluster in the state.

According to DHHR numbers, Cabell County alone already has more confirmed HIV cases in 2019 than the entire state of West Virginia has had in a single year since 2008, which was 84 cases that year.

A second unrelated public forum will be next Tuesday in the area at Chris Temple Church. It’s being organized by Cabell County Commissioner Kelli Sobonya and State Del. John Mandt Jr. (R-Cabell) and called a “public safety solutions summit.”