Fighting the opioid epidemic

West Virginia is considered “ground zero” of the opioid epidemic, with 833 drug overdose deaths in 2017. This is threefold the national rate. Injecting drugs increases the risk of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.

Sadly, in towns across our state, news of these overlapping opioid and infectious disease outbreaks are becoming more common. Indeed, the Centers for Disease Control has identified 28 of West Virginia’s 55 counties as having a high-risk of a HIV outbreak due to injection drug use.

Not a single town, county, or state can face these challenges alone. Though the outlook may seem poor, we must meet this challenge as part of a global alliance to protect the health of individuals and communities from preventable diseases.

At the height of the AIDS crisis nearly two decades ago, the world came together to fight back, creating the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. This international partnership has helped save 27 million lives and decreased the number of deaths caused by these diseases by one-third annually since 2002.

Since the beginning, the U.S. has played a leading role in the Global Fund, providing one-third of its financial resources. While aimed globally, their work increases treatment rates, elevates standards of care, and ultimately decreases healthcare costs for West Virginians. To confront the current crisis effectively on the front lines at home, America’s place as a global leader in improving health outcomes must meet the need of medically underserved West Virginia communities.

We invite you to learn more about the Global Fund and urge Sens. Capito and Manchin as well as President Trump to continue our strong support for the Global Fund by recommitting to provide one-third of the total $14 billion necessary to improve health and save lives, including those in West Virginia.

Farha Kahn, Joanna DiStefano and Travis Bergmann