Health officials have accepted 300 used needles and tested 27 people for HIV as part ot the response to the HIV outbreak in southern Indiana. That’s according to the state’s Joint Information Center established after the outbreak was detected. There have been 89 new reported cases of HIV in Scott County and Governor Mike Pence has declared a public health emergency there. Pence also temporarily suspended state law to establish a 30-day needle exchange program. Beth Myerson, the co-director of the Rural Center for AIDS and STD Prevention at Indiana University,says the whole state of Indiana has something to learn from the recent outbreak in Scott County.
Scott County was lacking much of that public health system before the HIV outbreak was identified earlier this year. There has been no HIV testing facility in the county since a Planned Parenthood facility was closed there in 2013. That closure was blamed largely on funding cuts at the state level.
Myerson said the response to the recent crisis from the State Department of Health has mostly been good. She praised the efforts to test residents for HIV, provide them with medical records and enroll them in health coverage. But she said there are problems with the 30-day needle exchange program, questioning how the time period would be long enough to be effective.
Indiana law effectively makes it illegal to run a permanent needle exchange program. That’s because it is illegal for anyone to possess drug paraphernalia or trace amounts of drugs.