CDC investigates HIV outbreak

By: Richard Meyer ~Copy Editor~

A recent outbreak of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) in rural Scott County, Indiana has received national attention. More than 130 cases of HIV have been confirmed in southeastern Indiana since December 2014, and many more people are being tested for the virus.

A syringe lies in Scott County, Ind. where an outbreak of HIV has generated concern.

The state of Indiana typically reports 500 diagnosed cases a year. On average, five of these cases have come from Scott County. State officials have traced the epicenter of the HIV outbreak to the remote area of Scott, Ind. where a lack of medical supplies and resources has caused drug users in the area to share needles.

The spread of the disease is the result of the use of the prescription intravenous opioid oxymorphone. “There’s growing concern about this outbreak and how far it might go, both in terms of number of cases and geographic spread,” Indiana State Representative and Chair of the Public Health Committee Ed Clere said. According to a study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 80 percent of the people with confirmed cases of HIV infection in Scott County have admitted to intravenous drug use.

More than 84 percent of the cases also had a coinfection with Hepatitis C. The CDC released a statement April 24, providing an update on the status of the aid programs. “[The Indiana State Department of Health has] worked with the only health care provider in the immediate community, local health officials, law enforcement, community partners, regional health care providers and CDC to launch a comprehensive response to this outbreak,” the report said.

The State Department of Health along with Gov. Pence issued an executive order March 26 declaring a state of public health emergency in Scott County for 30 days. The governor extended the state of emergency and executive order until May 24. Gov. Pence also issued a “Needle Exchange Program” for Scott County.

“Participants [in the Needle Exchange Program] are counseled about their drug use and provided needles based upon their use for a week, as well as thick plastic containers for safe disposal of used needles,” the Indiana State Department of Health said. Residents fear that many of the services that are being provided will be revoked at the end of the executive order in May. Aid will continue until the end of May and then the situation will be reevaluated.