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Concern over rise in HIV, syphilis cases in the Mid-Ohio Valley

Medical professionals warn, the Mid-Ohio Valley is not immune.
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 5:59 PM EDT
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PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) - In February, the CDC called the outbreak of HIV in Kanawha County the “most concerning” outbreak in the nation.

Medical professionals warn the Mid-Ohio Valley is not immune.

“We’re not Charleston. We’re not Huntington. I don’t want us to get to that point ever. But if we put our heads in the sand, we will. And so, we’re not going to put our heads in the sand.” - Rebecca Eaton, MOVHD

Officials from the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department say, aside from COVID-19, HIV and syphilis are the most concerning contagious diseases impacting our community.

Rebecca Eaton says she’s been in the practice for nearly forty years and at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department for the past three.

“Before I started (at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department), I had never seen a chancre for syphilis,” Eaton says, referring to the painless genital ulcers most commonly formed during the primary stage of syphilis. “My first week, I saw eight.”

Eaton reports that in her three years at the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, the numbers have skyrocketed. Last year, she says syphilis cases doubled. “So, if every year we double the amount, and we started off at ten and (now) we’re at sixty-some... that’s very concerning.”

Health officials say both HIV and syphilis are treatable, but detection by testing is key to stopping the spread.

Eaton reports that testing is not where it needs to be in the area.

“We still have people say, ‘I don’t need to have testing for syphilis and I don’t need to have testing for HIV... I just need to find out if I have hepatitis, or do I have gonorrhea or do I have chlamydia,’ and they’ll refuse the testing.”

According to the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department, “Sometimes you can have an STD with no sign or symptoms. Other times, the symptoms go away on their own. Either way, you still have the STD until you get treatment.”

Whether you’ve been exposed to blood, had unprotected sex, or just want to know your status, testing for HIV, syphilis, and other sexually transmitted diseases is done Monday and Thursdays from 12 - 3 p.m., by appointment only.

Appointments can be made by calling the Mid-Ohio Valley Health Department.

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