State Officials Fail to Seek CDC’s Assistance for HIV Epidemic in Kanawha | Health
This recognition came as a surprise to Matt Sutton, chief of staff to the mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin.
At Monday’s meeting of the Kanawha-Charleston Department of Health‘s HIV task force – the first time the group has met since the CDC’s warning in February – Sutton said he believed A request for epidemiological assistance from the CDC had already been made by the state at the request of the city.
“If you need something from the city, we are ready to make that request, but we have been told [the CDC] was already there, âSutton said.
Amy Atkins, head of the National Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services, said this was not the case. Atkins said the state had transferred two of its disease intervention specialists under contract with the CDC from the offices of the Department of Health and Human Resources to the Department of Health for convenience, but an official request from assistance – commonly known as epi-aid – has not been filed.
Epi-aid is a short-term, targeted assistance from a CDC team to help combat a public health threat in an area. Cabell County has received such support in the past to deal with its own HIV epidemic, with the CDC team implementing increased testing as part of its response.
Dr Sherri Young, a health officer at the Kanawha-Charleston Department of Health, said the decision to call the CDC was up to the state alone.
State health official Dr Ayne Amjad said that because the Kanawha-Charleston health department has already increased its screening capacity, federal assistance is not needed.
âIt’s easier to think of epi-aid as a needs assessment,â said Amjad. âSince we’ve had this problem before, unfortunately we know what our needs are, so we can go ahead and meet them. If we need [the CDC], we can call them.
It is not known at what point, if at all, the state will go ahead with a request for epi-aid. CDC representatives are expected to be present at future meetings of the HIV task force, Atkins said.
Kanawha County Commission Chairman Kent Carper also questioned whether the CDC’s intervention was a necessary response step.
âWe need something permanent. The CDC comes in, then they exit. For us, the people who live here, like you and me, we need something that will stay, âCarper said.
The number of HIV cases in the region has been steadily increasing since 2018. Previously, there was an average of 14 HIV cases per year in Kanawha County, of which two per year were linked to intravenous drug use. .
In 2019, 29 HIV cases were identified in Kanawha County, 15 of which were linked to intravenous drug use. The number of cases rose to 45 in 2020, including 37 related to intravenous drug use.
The HIV Task Force was launched in October 2019 to bring together community resources to help respond to the epidemic. Young said that while the group has met intermittently in the past, regular monthly meetings will begin in June.