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Monday, March 30, 2015

Indiana Declares State of Emergency Over Recent HIV Outbreak

HIV Outbreak Press Conference

Indianapolis, IN — The state of Indiana has declared a state of emergency after a recent outbreak of HIV has infected more than 80 people. All of the cases are in Scott County (southeastern Indiana), and have been linked to, not promiscuous sex, but intravenous opiate drug use. Normally, the county, which has a population of just 24,100, has just about five new HIV cases a year.

State health officials say the number of infections will get higher, and for this reason, Governor Mike Pence has already approved a 30-day needle exchange program to stop the spread of the disease. During this 30-day period, health workers will be safe from any criminal penalties that normally apply for giving drug users clean needles.

Pence released a statement saying: “Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem. The people of Scott County are working hard to address this crisis, and with additional state resources and new tools provided by this emergency declaration, I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”

Pence also reiterated that the program will be temporary, stating, “I don’t believe effective anti-drug policy involves handing out drug paraphernalia.” This is his response to critics that says the state should keep the needle exchange program open at all times.

He added that he would not consider extending the program if the outbreak continues to get worse.

Meanwhile, Indiana University School of Medicine infectious disease specialist Diane Janowicz, commented, “This is a very large HIV epidemic that we have not seen before, particularly in an underserved rural setting where resources are more limited than in a large urban area, and there are going to be social and economic obstacles that we will have to overcome in order to make sure that we’re providing the best care for these patients.

For more details about the outbreak and program, visit www.in.gov/isdh/