August 18, 2011
Covenant House, a Charleston nonprofit, is expanding its services to people with HIV/AIDS by offering a new monthly support group.
"The support group will be located at Covenant House and we're gonn a do it on the second Thursday of every month," said Jeff Crist, outreach coordinator for the organization. "We have a licensed counselor to facilitate the group. And really what we hope happens is, people will come in with different expectations and different needs. Some people are gonna use the group as a social outlet. Other people are gonna come in, we're sure, who will have very specific questions and concerns. What we want to do is be able to have an open discussion."
Data show about 1,500 West Virginians are living with HIV/AIDS. Crist believes that number may be higher. "We have seen a really dramatic spike in HIV infections here," he said. "It's not unlike what's going on throughout the country but it is happening here too, and it is an invisible epidemic in lots of ways. Just in the last nine months, we've had 50 new people who have been diagnosed with HIV in southern [West Virginia]."
"About 20 percent of people who are positive don't know they are. So we're doing our best, not only to educate people about how to prevent HIV but we want to lend additional support to people with the virus, particularly people who have found out recently that they're infected, because it's scary," Crist noted.
Covenant House is located at 600 Shrewsbury St.; for more information, visit www.wvcovenanthouse.org/.