Indiana HIV Outbreak: Indiana Governor Mike Pence is extending a public health emergency in his state to fight a recent Indiana HIV outbreak linked to intravenous drug use. Scott County, a small, rural county in southern Indiana is experiencing a dramatic spike in the number of HIV cases. Each year, Scott County typically sees five new HIV cases; but in 2015 alone, they have seen 128 new HIV cases. The recent outbreak in Indiana is tied to drug abuse, injection, and in particular to a drug called Opana.
Opana is a potent opioid painkiller that is being altered and injected at increasing rates in the Hoosier State. According to Beth Meyerson, the co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at Indiana University, addicts are using a “prior iteration” of Opana because the current form of it doesn’t allow for cooking and shooting. Opana, as opposed to heroin, is typically injected roughly 10 times a day and requires a larger gauge needle.
Governor Pence is working to extend a needle exchange program. Indiana reported that roughly 5,000 clean syringes were given out to 86 users in Scott County recently. Scott County is trying to educate the public about how a clean syringe could make the difference between a hepatitis C or HIV infection. While the governor and state health department are stating that the HIV outbreak is limited to a 10-block radius, Meyerson said this is not quite accurate. Meyerson told NPR that because the using population comes and goes, and because users’ sexual networks reach outside this area, the outbreak is affecting many more people.
Unfortunately, addiction and HIV resources are limited in the rural area of Scott County. A lack of federal funding and fear of law enforcement have limited the success of needle exchange programs. This month, the Foundation for AIDS Research released a report highlighting the importance of needle exchange programs in the United States. The report also stated that new cases of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs have spiked in Indiana and Kentucky — two states that do not have a needle exchange program.
Hopefully, the recent Indiana HIV outbreak will prompt the state to increase funding for addiction treatment and infectious disease education. If you know someone who is struggling with a drug addiction, help is available. Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and fatal disease if left untreated. Do not become part of the statistics — reach out for help immediately. Contact Addiction Intervention Now today at 561.350.7964.