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Why Appalachia is Bracing for an HIV Epidemic

If the rising rates of Hepatitis C are any indication, states in the Appalachian region may soon see an outbreak of HIV diagnoses. Research suggests that levels of intravenous drug use are particularly high throughout the region, and officials expect to see those numbers continue to climb.

The epidemic of people using needles to get high brings with it many dangers, and few solutions are obvious.

The Fear of an HIV Outbreak

Officials base the warning of a probable outbreak of HIV in Appalachia on the increasing number of intravenous drug users in the area. Hepatitis C is already running rampant in Appalachia. Thousands of people have been diagnosed with the disease in the last few years, and the numbers in Appalachia are much higher than they are elsewhere in the country.

Where Hepatitis C outbreaks happen, climbing HIV diagnoses are almost a foregone conclusion. Both diseases are spread through the use of dirty needles and unprotected sex. The largely poor, rural population in Appalachia appears to be particularly vulnerable to these risk factors. Hepatitis C used to be seen mainly in urban areas where minorities were more likely to be diagnosed. HIV often followed on its heels if habits were not drastically changed.

Is It Possible to Slow the Spread of HIV in Appalachia?

Public health officials fear that they will see a steep rise in HIV cases in the region unless drastic changes are made. Needle exchange programs have been successful at curbing the number of HIV diagnoses in many urban areas, and may work in Appalachia as well.

However, there may be a fear of participating in these programs among people living in sparsely populated areas where their need for needles might be more noticeable. Though people may be reluctant to take part, it may be the best option officials have for controlling the predicted HIV epidemic.

The Need for STD Testing

Epidemics like these underscore the need for regular STD testing. When increasing rates of Hepatitis C are detected through STD testing, communities can take steps to prevent the spread of Hep C and HIV. Early treatment of these diseases is essential for preventing their spread.

ARCpoint Labs nationwide can provide the STD testing individuals need. To get started with our accurate, confidential services, contact your nearest ARCpoint Labs location!

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