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WVa group begins monkeypox education efforts in Appalachia

Nick Youngson

A West Virginia nonprofit group said Monday it has been awarded $100,000 in grants for monkeypox vaccination and education efforts among LGTBQ individuals in 13 Appalachian states.

The Community Education Group received $50,000 grants each from Gilead Sciences and ViiV Healthcare to develop and distribute materials, offer grants and hold meetings aimed at reducing cultural stigmas and barriers related to the virus, the group said in a statement.

CEG will create and distribute monkeypox digital resource guides to more than 300 Appalachian health departments, along with rural healthcare associations and LGBTQ groups.

CEG also will accept applications for mini-grants from organizations in Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, the statement said.

The virus has mainly spread among gay and bisexual men, though health officials continue to stress that anyone can be infected.

"One of the things that we realize with monkeypox is that we were asking people to have a conversation with a population of folks that they may not normally engage with," CEG President and founder A. Toni Young said in a telephone interview. "And many of them want to have this conversation but just simply didn't know how to."

CEG wanted to be able to provide a toolkit "so that folks actually feel safe and free to access the care and services at our county health departments," she said.

The Community Education Group, founded in 1994, is based in the Hardy County community of Lost City, with offices in Washington. It works to eliminate disparities in health outcomes and improve public health in disadvantaged populations and underserved communities.