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Take The QUICk Survey – Quickly Understanding Impacts of COVID-19

The purpose of this study is to learn how the novel coronavirus (also known as SARS-CoV-2 and COVID-19) has impacted your life. Full information about this study is available in the informed consent document below.

At the end of the survey, you will be asked if you would like to be entered into a raffle for a $100 Amazon gift certificate using the email address you provide. If so, please indicate YES.

Logo of National Hepatitis Testing Day, held on May 19th, 2020

Community Education Group Recognizes Hepatitis Awareness Month

May is Hepatitis Awareness Month and CEG is participating by raising awareness of how the opioid and meth addiction crises in West Virginia intersect with the state’s grim record for having the highest rates of new Hepatitis B (HBV) and Hepatitis C (HCV) diagnoses in the United States.

In 2017, West Virginia reported the highest rates of new Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections in the U.S., with rates of 11.7 (per 100,000) and 5.6 (per 100,000), respectively. The national rate of new infections for both diseases is 1.0.

That same year, West Virginia had both the highest rate of overall drug overdose deaths (57.8 per 100,000), and the highest rate of opioid-related drug overdose deaths (49.6 per 100,000) in the U.S. The national overall and opioid-related drug overdose deaths are 21.7 and 14.5, respectively.

These statistics are not unrelated.

According to the West Virginia Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services, a majority of cases of both HBV and HCV reported injection drug use and/or street-drug use as the primary risk factor for transmission (OEPS, 2018).

CEG is working tirelessly to bring attention to West Virginia’s syndemic of Substance Use Disorder, HBV, HCV, and HIV, as well as the work of our state’s various Harm Reduction Programs – those run by both county health departments, non-profits, and Rural Health Service Providers.

Stay tuned to #CEGInWV’s website and social media pages as we reveal the exciting projects we have in store for both West Virginia and across the nation. While you’re waiting, be sure to get tested for Hepatitis on National Hepatitis Testing Day – May 19th, 2020.


West Virginia Office of Epidemiology & Prevention Services. (2018, April). HEPATITIS B AND HEPATITIS C INFECTION IN WEST VIRGINA 2016 – Surveillance Summary – April 2018. Charleston, WV: West Virginia Department of Health & Human Resources: Bureau for Public Health: Office of Epidemiology & Prevention Services: Hepatitis: Data and Surveillance: Summary Reports. Retrieved from: https://oeps.wv.gov/hepatitis/documents/data/Summary_2016_Acute_HBV-HCV.pdf

Wooden Grist Mill in the Fall

Communicating Public Health Messages Through Community Engagement

Any time there’s a public health crisis, healthcare officials are faced with the challenge of how best to communicate messages to the public. With that in mind, CEG has sourced two articles focusing on how to communicate public health messages both on social media and in rural settings—areas where CEG is working tirelessly to communicate with folks in West Virginia.  Check out the links, below:

Social Media in Public Health: A Vital Component of Community Engagement
By: Mark R. Miller, William D. Snook, and Elizabeth Walsh

Community Engagement Toolkit for Rural Hospitals
From: Washington State Hospital Association

Community Education Group's COVID-19 Infographic

Community Education Group Launches COVID-19 Best Practices Infographic For Harm Reduction Programs

As the Coronavirus (COVID-19) forces society to engage in preventative measures such as social distancing, #CEGInWV has created a Best Practices poster for use by Harm Reduction Programs offering services to People Who Use Drugs during this pandemic. In this time of uncertainty, it is imperative that those operating HRPs do everything in their power to ensure the safety of both their staff and their clients, as well as engage clients in best practices to stay safe while using.

Community Education Group Launches New Website

The Community Education Group's new homepage

Things are a bit shinier around CEG
these days. As you may have noticed,
our website has been relaunched with
more than just a new coat of paint; we’ve
got a whole new design rolling out today.

Thanks to our partners at Fors Marsh Group, for their excellent work on giving our website a much-needed facelift!

Please take a few moments to dig through our site, and if you find any bugs, please drop us a line at info@communityeducationgroup.org, and we’ll address it as quickly as we can.

Photo of an outline of the state of West Virginia made out of white powder, presumably heroin or cocaine, and a rolled up straw for snorting it

Community Education Group RESPONDS: Misreading the Tea Leaves on West Virginia’s HIV Outbreak

At his recent abstract presentation delivered at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), Dr. R. Paul McClung presented a portrait of a successful HIV intervention in Cabell County, West Virginia. By his estimation, the response to what was then the third HIV outbreak in that state, beginning in January 2018, was a fine example of a successful infectious disease responseMedPage Today described it as “A Blueprint for Public Health Response,” and McClung cited a strong public health infrastructure in the county, including “…a large academic medical center, a large network of community health centers, and a ‘growing capacity to treat substance use disorder,’ such as a syringe service program in place since 2015” (Walker, 2020). Given the consistently negative press both the state and the county receive, this glowing review of Cabell County’s response is a welcome change—but it is also, unfortunately, a largely incomplete portrayal of events as they occurred, and of circumstances on the ground as they still stand.

While the staff of the Cabell-Huntington Health Department, their Harm Reduction Program, and the local community-based organizations and healthcare providers did an excellent job of working together to identify new cases of HIV among People Who Inject Drugs (PWIDs) and others in the county, what Dr. McClung fails to mention is that many—a significant percentage—of those cases identified in Cabell County between January 2018 and December 2019 were patients who were not/are not residents of Cabell County.

Huntington sits on the border of both Kentucky and Ohio and is also surrounded by several rural counties. It serves as one of the primary hubs of drug trafficking in the region, a place where people drive hours and hundreds of miles to get their drugs and, unfortunately, often contract infectious diseases in conjunction with the injection of those drugs. As Dr. McClung’s reporting correctly identified, a majority of the new HIV diagnoses were directly related to Injection Drug Use (IDU). According to the West Virginia Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services (OEPS), of the 69 new cases identified in 2019, 63 (91.3%) reported IDU as a risk factor (OEPS, 2020). It was not, however, until January of this year (2020) that the state redefined how they count reported cases of HIV, allowing for counties to correctly attribute newly identified cases back to the patients’ counties or states of origin.

Dr. McClung’s reporting leaves out the important fact that little to no investigation has been done on the ground in the rural counties that surround Cabell and Kanawha Counties, the site of the fourth HIV outbreak, identified in 2019. This is not because nobody wants to conduct these investigations, but because the resources simply do not exist for them to be done. Even in Cabell County, the Harm Reduction Program operates with only a handful of staff members for a job that requires ten. In these rural counties, entire county health departments operate with similarly small staffs, yet their responsibilities extend beyond just Harm Reduction and HIV testing. They are also tasked with protecting communities from environmental health risks, and with inspecting houses, institutions, recreational facilities, sewage and wastewater facilities, and drinking water facilities.

When we discuss West Virginia’s response to the inaccurately defined “cluster,” we cannot do so without acknowledging that we do not know whether or not the HIV outbreak was

contained to Cabell (nor if the outbreak in Kanawha Count was contained) simply because neither adequate testing, nor case investigation, has been conducted outside of Cabell and Kanawha Counties. To paint a portrait of a successful public health intervention without addressing the existing gaps in public health infrastructure and surveillance outside of urban areas of rural states is misleading.

When it comes to both drug use and infectious disease, two things are certain: (1) neither are contained solely within urban areas, and (2) both have been growing in rural America for more than a decade. We have yet to effectively grasp or contend with these rural health crises, despite the best efforts of county and state health departments.

Despite Dr. McClung’s accurate observation of Cabell County, there is a greater story to be told and greater needs to be met. We need more resources. We need enough funds dedicated to hiring appropriate staff. We need enough funds to adequately provide infectious disease testing and epidemiological reporting. We need enough funds to provide treatment. Right now, West Virginia’s rural counties lack those resources, putting a strain on Cabell to pick up where they cannot.


Driesbach, E. (2020, March 16). Treating patients ‘rapidly and effectively’ helped contain HIV outbreak in West Virginia. Thorofare, NJ: SLACK Incorporated: Healio: Infectious Disease: HIV/AIDS: Meeting News. Retrieved from: https://www.healio.com/infectious-disease/hiv-aids/news/online/%7Bd14dcd…

Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services. (2020, March 01). HIV Diagnoses by County, West Virginia, 2018-2020. Charleston, WV: West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources: Bureau for Public Health: Office of Epidemiology and Prevention Services. Retrieved from: https://oeps.wv.gov/hiv-aids/documents/data/WV_HIV_2018-2020.pdf

Walker, M. (2020, March 11). West Virginia HIV Outbreak: A Blueprint for Public Health Response – Used four pillars of federal initiative to manage local HIV epidemic. New York, NY: MedPage Today, LLC: Meeting Coverage: CROI. Retrieved from: https://www.medpagetoday.com/meetingcoverage/croi/85378

Community Education Group HEPConnect Ad Example

Community Education Group Launches First HEPConnect Ad Campaign

CEG has launched its first digital media campaign as part of its HEPConnect
grant work. This series of ads will be running in West Virginia newspaper outlets in Cabell, Jefferson, Kanawha, Monongalia, Morgan, and Raleigh Counties.

The ad run schedule is as follows:
March/April 2020 – Cabell/Kanawha
April/May 2020 – Morgan
May/June/July 2020 – Jefferson
June/July 2020 – Raleigh
July/August 2020 – Monongalia

Photo of West Virginia HEPConnect Grantees standing in front of the HEPConnect logo at the March 2020 Grantee Convening

Community Education Group Attends HEPConnect Spring 2020 Grantee Convening in Raleigh, NC

The West Virginia Contingent at the HEPConnect Spring 2020 Grantee Convening

From March 10th to March 13th, CEG’s Executive Director, A. Toni Young, and WV Policy Coordinator, Marcus J. Hopkins, attended the first HEPConnect Grantee Convening of 2020 in Raleigh, NC. This event, hosted by the Harm Reduction Coalition and Gilead Sciences, brought together HEPConnect grant recipients and partner organizations from Indiana, Kentucky, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia to discuss organizing strategies, best practices, and other issues related to Harm Reduction efforts and coalition building.

This meeting allowed CEG to meeting with some of its partnering organizations to begin preparing for some of the exciting work we’ll be doing in 2020 and beyond, as well as allowing us to introduce ourselves to other states’ grantees to see how they are working to effect positive change and outreach in their home states.

Community Education Group cog and organization name

Community Education Group Receives $500,000 Grant to Bolster Fight Against HIV in West Virginia


Community Education Group Receives $500,000 Grant to Bolster Fight Against HIV in West Virginia

Sherpherdstown, WV (March 9, 2020) – Local West Virginia organization, Community Education Group (CEG), has been awarded $500,000 dollars in funding by Gilead Sciences to combat the spread of HIV in West Virginia. This new grant will support CEG’s efforts to improve HIV prevention, testing, screening, and treatment in the state.

“The goal is to help local communities and groups working in public health to understand how the three epidemics are linked,” explained CEG’s executive director, A. Toni Young, “and then get everyone working together to shape West
Virginia’s response to the syndemic in practical, effective, and cooperative ways.”

The $500,000 grant from Gilead Sciences will enable CEG to coordinate community response to the state’s growing HIV crisis by funding programs that use and integrated approach to preventing HIV, viral hepatitis, and opioid usage.
West Virginia is currently experiencing its fourth HIV outbreak in three years, part of a growing syndemic of HIV and Hepatitis C (HCV) driven by the state’s ongoing opioid crisis. As a result, West Virginia has been confronting a multi-faceted public health emergency without the necessary infrastructure or effective coordination among service providers, public health agencies, and policymakers.

Both CEG and Gilead Sciences have been involved with the fight against HIV/AIDS for many years. CEG originally established its reputation not far from West Virginia, mobilizing community response to HIV/AIDS in the District of
Columbia. Gilead has long been developing HIV medications and therapeutic options, including working to expand access to medicines in low- and middle-income countries.

“Gilead is pleased to support Community Education Group’s work to address and eliminate health disparities, especially HIV related disparities in the state of West Virginia. We believe this is a critical time to bring all community stakeholders together, to align with the Administration’s End the Epidemic Plan in order to prevent new HIV infections and improve the health and wellness of those living with HIV.” said Korab Zuka, Vice President of Public Affairs for Gilead Sciences.

Since the spike in HIV cases is connected with injection drug use, CEG plans to work with established regional coalitions that are already addressing the opioid epidemic. The organization’s goal is to integrate HIV education, training, and policy development into those ongoing community efforts. Simultaneously, CEG will build an overarching statewide coalition that can mobilize advocates, researchers, policymakers, and experts to meet with legislators and contribute to future planning for leveraging federal resources, such as funding from the Trump administration’s “Ending the HIV Epidemic” initiative.

Community Education Group
A. Toni Young
(304) 278-4420

Community Education Group's Founder and Executive Director, A. Toni Young, with her dog, Hank

So, I’ve Been Thinking: Helping Each Other Through

So, I’ve been thinking about the work that we do in social justice movements and in areas like HIV and reproductive health. It’s not easy work. It’s work that requires a lot of stamina, and it’s often very emotional work. For instance,
right now Community Education Group is focused on three distinct areas:

• Working to eliminate HIV and Hepatitis C in the state of West Virginia, by raising awareness and educating people about risk, prevention, and treatment;

• Working to protect black women from HIV by raising awareness and educating people about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis);

• Working to include people of color in community-based participatory HIV research, both domestic and global.

Now, these are big challenges requiring a lot of work, but I think these are the areas where women, young people, and people of color need us to advocate, to open doors and improve access. It’s where I see a need, and that is what guides me and guides CEG: working in areas where we see a need and where we can add value.

What helps us keep going as we take on these challenges? Obviously we need investment, and we’ve been very fortunate with some recent support from Gilead for our work in West Virginia. But we need more support in the other areas: black women and PrEP, and including people of color in HIV research.

Even beyond financial support, however, is something equally or even more important. To accomplish our goals, we have to work together, collaboratively. Unity is especially important in these troubling times, and if we’re going to do this together then we have to take care of one another. We have to help each other remain healthy emotionally.

That starts with being aware and cognizant of our own emotional state. For me, and I know also for a lot of my colleagues, this isn’t just a job. It’s my passion and I feel like it’s what I was put on the planet to do. But even in the midst of fighting for what you believe in, it’s also very important to find the joy in what we do. I try to find the joy in each day, in my work, in the things that I do.

This doesn’t just make me feel better; it also enables me to take the next step: working to bring joy into other people’s lives as well. I want to support my colleagues, my friends, my sister and brother warriors out there fighting HIV, fighting for reproductive justice, social justice, racial justice. And in these times that we’re in, it gets harder. It wears on us. These fights take a toll on us and often we are not sufficiently kind to one another. I am looking for ways to be kinder and more supportive of my colleagues, as well as being kinder to myself. I am looking
at how I may have failed to do that in the past, and how I can do a better job of being kind today.

Those things are important, when you’re engaged in intensely emotional work, like so many of us are. It’s important that we support one another, that when we see an ally who may be hurting, that we take a moment and ask if they’re okay. I will try to do that for you, and I hope you’ll do that same thing for me.

That’s what I’ve been thinking.