INDIANA GOVERNOR MIKE PENCE ORDERS NEEDLE EXCHANGE PROGRAM IN SCOTT COUNTY TO COMBAT HIV EPIDEMIC AMONG INTRAVENOUS DRUG USERS
On 20 March 2015, the Indiana State Department of Health issued the following press release:
INDIANAPOLIS—State health officials reported today a total of 55 confirmed cases of HIV and 13 additional preliminary positive cases related to the outbreak in southeastern Indiana that was announced in February. All cases are linked to injection drug abuse of the prescription opioid painkiller, opana, with some individuals also reporting sexual intercourse as a possible mode of transmission.
“I am deeply troubled by this outbreak, and stopping it is a top priority for our department,” said State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. “We are engaging local, state, and national partners to determine where we can most effectively focus our efforts. Extra care is being taken to invest resources in getting people off drugs and into treatment, since drug abuse is the clear driving force behind this outbreak.”
The Indiana State Department of Health is working closely with local health officials, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), drug treatment facilities, local medical providers, and other State agencies to contain the outbreak and get HIV positive individuals treatment. Specifically, the State Health Department has requested a medical team from CDC to help with following up on contacts of HIV positive individuals and analyzing data. The team, which will arrive in Scott County on Monday, consists of two medical doctors and one epidemiologist.
Other efforts include the creation of a public awareness campaign created specifically in response to this outbreak, called You Are Not Alone, which focuses on drug abuse, safe sex, needle disposal and HIV testing and treatment. Viewers are encouraged to contact the HIV services hotline or addiction hotline for local treatment and care resources. The campaign will include digital and social media ads, billboards along the Interstate 65 corridor, radio, and will be featured in the free local paper, The Giveaway. Social media ads will begin today, with the rest of the campaign rolling out over the next two weeks and lasting three months. The campaign can be seen in southeastern Indiana counties.
State health officials recommend that all Hoosiers know their HIV status. The best way for an individual to learn their HIV status is by getting tested by a health care professional. Hoosiers in the southeastern portion of the state, especially individuals who have engaged in high-risk behavior such as needle sharing and unprotected sex, are advised to get tested and then re-tested after about two to three months because HIV can take up to three months to appear in a person’s system.
To help reduce risk of HIV infection, avoid:
· injection drug use;
· sharing or re-using needles;
· engaging in unprotected sex; and,
· engaging in sex with commercial sex workers.
For HIV testing locations and information about HIV Care Coordination, individuals are encouraged to call the ISDH HIV Services Hotline at (866) 588-4948.
Individuals seeking help with substance abuse should call the national 24-hour addiction hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357). This hotline provides confidential, free, 24-hour-a-day, 365-day-a-year, information service, in English and Spanish, for individuals and family members facing mental health and/or substance use disorders. This service provides referrals to local treatment facilities, support groups, and community-based organizations. Callers can also order free publications and other information.
To learn more about the link between HIV infection and drug abuse, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse at http://hiv.drugabuse.gov/index.html.
Visit the Indiana State Department of Health at http://www.StateHealth.in.gov. Follow the Indiana State Department of Health on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/isdh1.
Hoosiers who do not have health care coverage or access to a doctor are encouraged to check availability for the new Healthy Indiana Plan—HIP 2.0—by visiting http://www.HIP.IN.gov or calling 1-877-GET-HIP-9.
Name: Amy Reel
Today the number of confirmed cases of HIV from the abuse of prescription opioids has become such a crisis that Governor Mike Pence has ordered a needle exchange program to begin in southeastern Indiana. The epicenter of this crisis appears to be Scott County, Indiana with a population of 24,181. In this county 80 cases of HIV have been confirmed. This comes in state where HIV has been criminalized and often, for years, demonized as a disease of the gay community.
Governor Pence, long an opponent of needle exchanges and the local authorities in the mostly white and rural southeast Indiana are complicit in this epidemic, which could have been prevented when the heroin use in that region began to spike in the late winter of 2014. Recently, the Indiana State House busied itself with drafting a religious freedom bill while its citizens were under assault from the disease being spread through the sharing of needles. We, Ourselves, of the Collective understand that those in power wish to cater to the fears of conservative voters who feel that their ‘way of life” is being threatened by the social changes of current in America, but this case of nearsightedness is unprecedented.
Scott County, Indiana is a special case in this matter. It is overwhelmingly white, conservative and middle class. there are thousands of young people in this county getting the medications of their parents and grandparents, illegally, which is leading to illness and death. Similar conditions exist in major cities in Indiana, but not to the degree that We see in Scott County today. Now, when this subset of individuals are in peril, all the forces of governmental power have come to bear on the problem. Even Governor Pence who abhors the concept of needle exchanges has been forced to turn his back on a tenet of his conservative ideology to save the children and grandchildren of his base. So he has turned to the federal government in the form of the CDC for help and they have arrived. The solutions to this problem are ones that any socialist or Progressive would understand and knows would work.
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