As the opioid epidemic continues to devastate lives throughout Appalachia, health officials are reporting a spike in “second wave” epidemics like Hepatitis C. One way to combat the epidemic may be more needle exchange programs like the one at the Kanawha-Charleston Health Department.
Once a month, Jeff Crist, an employee of the free clinic West Virginia Health Right, goes there to gently waylay participants as they walk in.
“Would you like to get tested for Hep. C today?” he asks patients over and over again.
Note: There is an excellent video embedded in the news story that explains the study- Alan
LEXINGTON, Ky. (Oct. 21, 2016) — With the rise in injection drug use, infectious disease has permeated through cohesive social networks in Appalachia, causing another dimension of devastation in the wake of the opioid epidemic.
About 15 years ago, a shift toward injection drug use behaviors occurred in rural Appalachia. These changes in drug use patterns signaled the potential for infiltration of blood-borne pathogens transmitted through shared needles. Increases in hepatitis C (HCV) infections have paralleled the increase in injection drug use behaviors among opioid users, with the rate of HCV infection in three Appalachian states tripling within six years.
With staggering rates of injection drug use and HCV in Appalachia, the National Institutes on Drug Abuse (NIDA) issued planning grants in 2016 to support researchers expediting and implementing solutions to the epidemic. Jennifer Havens, an epidemiologist in the University of Kentucky Center for Drug and Alcohol Research, was recently awarded two of the competitive planning grants to launch projects that will inform interventions and policies directed at opioid abuse across Appalachia. Havens has followed the simultaneous rise in injection drug use and HCV in Appalachia since 2004, accruing valuable data imperative for informing interventions and effective health policies.