HIV awareness event to draw attention to the public health crisis

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (WSAZ) – More than 200 community members gathered on Saturday afternoon at Magic Island, forming the expression HIV SOS with their bodies.

“If you just moved to Charleston, you wouldn’t know we are in so much pain,” said Joe Solomon, organizer of Solutions Oriented Addiction Response (SOAR). “We lose a loved one here every two days. In Kanawha County, we saw more HIV cases last year linked to lack of access to sterile syringes than all of New York City saw the year before.

The event, organized by SOAR, brought together churches, organizations and community leaders to raise awareness of the rapid increase in HIV cases in Kanawha County; a growing and alarming trend.

“I have worked in HIV care and prevention for over 20 years in West Virginia. I have never seen it so badly, ”said Dr. Christine Teague, director of the Ryan White program at CAMC.

Organizers hope they can get the attention of Charleston Mayor Amy Goodwin and encourage him to declare a public health emergency.

“All we ask is that the City recognize the crisis in which we find ourselves, so that we can face it head-on. It is entirely within the power of the mayor to declare a public health emergency, ”said Cathy Kunkel, another organizer of the event.

Participants wore red and spelled HIV SOS in a field. According to a statement from the event, Kanawha County saw 209 families losing loved ones to drug overdoses in 2020, leading the state for the third year in a row since it closed its drug reduction program. most accessible mischief in early 2018.

“People should be treated with dignity and respect,” said Sarah Stone. “People who use drugs are not inferior people to those who do not, and people living with HIV are not inferior people without HIV. Every person deserves dignity, care and respect and they should know it. “

In February, the CDC said the number of overdoses and the ongoing HIV epidemic in Kanawha counties were the “most concerning” in the country.

The event included free training on naloxone.

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