Indiana County Suffering From HIV Outbreak

A small county in the state of Indiana is currently at a standstill as an H.I.V. outbreak has resulted after the start of a short-term needle exchange program, state health officials said.

Via: NYTimes

There are now 120 confirmed H.I.V. cases and 10 preliminary positive cases tied to Scott County, the Indiana State Department of Health said on Friday. That is up from 106 the previous week.

Health officials who declared an epidemic last month have said that they expect the number of cases to rise as more people are tested. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention sent staff members to Indiana last month to help with testing, the Health Department said in a news release. The growing number of cases could put pressure on Gov. Mike Pence to extend the 30-day needle exchange program that he approved on March 26.

A spokeswoman for the governor, Kara Brooks, said on Friday that Mr. Pence was reviewing reports and recommendations from health officials and would decide within the next few days whether to extend the program beyond April 25.

The Scott County outbreak has occurred among intravenous drug users and primarily involves the use of the high-powered painkiller Opana, health officials have said. The county usually sees about five H.I.V. cases a year.

Since Mr. Pence approved the temporary exchange, 5,322 clean syringes have been provided to 86 participants, health officials said Friday. About 1,400 used syringes have been returned.

Brittany Combs, a public health nurse for the Scott County Health Department, said the needle exchange program picked up a lot last week, in large part because a mobile unit has been traveling around neighborhoods seeking to get more intravenous drug users into the program.

“You have to gain that trust, and I think we’re slowly starting to do that,” Ms. Combs said.

But the future of the Scott County program, as well as the fate of legislation that would allow needle exchange programs in other counties, is not clear.