Health officials form HIV task force in Kanawha County

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Dr. Sherri Young has said one thing she has learned since taking on the role of Executive Director of the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department is she does not want the future of the community to be dictated by the past.

Young and other health leaders around the Kanawha Valley are trying to get ahead of any future problems in the community with HIV by forming an HIV task force.

Dr. Sherri Young

The working group will meet for the first time on Wednesday with goals of increasing capacity for HIV testing and linkage to care in Kanawha County. Young said the goal of tomorrow’s meeting is to establish relationships and communication amongst the parties.

“We have a lot of partners that are doing good work surrounding HIV,” Young said. “However, these partners don’t always have the ability to communicate. This task force is going to allow these partners to communicate more effectively and help us find places where we need to be looking for HIV, especially in our vulnerable population, and connecting them with care.”

Young will serve as the chair of the task force that has invited to participate the likes of Dr. Cathy Slemp, state Health Officer, representatives from the Bureau of Public Health in the Division of HIV, STD and Hepatitis, partners from West Virginia Health Right, officials from Charleston Area Medical Center and the Ryan White program, along with Dan Lauffer the CEO of Thomas Health, first responders, and City of Charleston and Kanawha County officials.

All are welcome to join the force that may have a stake in the battle, according to Young. She said officials have been excited about this opportunity to begin to meet and find a way to take the HIV identifiers out.

“With the numbers that we’ve seen, there are few people who have reported to the emergency room that we haven’t had the ability to outreach to before they get to that point,” Young said.

“What we want to do get into these areas, get them connected to care, get their viral count down and hopefully get them into rehabilitation.”

Those HIV numbers include 16 cases in Kanawha County as of Monday, according to Young. In 2018, there were 17 reported cases and the average for the county per year is 14.

She said the difference in the number of cases is the change in the proportion of people with IV drug abuse. Young said an average year may find two of the 14 cases are due to IV drug abuse, but there are six of the 16 cases in that category currently in 2019.

The meeting on Wednesday will get underway at 11 a.m. at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department on 108 Lee Street East in Charleston.

Agenda includes: Introduction of community partners, discussion of HIV rates in Kanawha County, state data and reporting, discussion of goals for the task force, identifying areas to enhance HIV testing, discussing plans for Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation Grant – to assist with HIV testing, identify components to improve linkage to care, identify additional community partners, discussion – comments and questions, and set follow up meeting for task force.

Young said she hopes a monthly meeting will be established.

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