At least 79 people in a southern corner of Indiana have been affected by a recent outbreak of HIV. State Governor Mike Pence approved a needle exchange program to help reduce disease spread.
All cases have been linked to intravenous drug use, and without intervention, the cases are expected to increase.
“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 said in a statement announcing the 30-day needle-exchange program.
While the program is in place, health workers will be exempt from the criminal penalties to normally apply to those distributing drug use paraphernalia. However, Pence has also shut down speculation that this temporary measure will give way to statewide, permanent needle exchange programs.
There are more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. currently living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control; Scott County usually sees around five cases of HIV a year.
To learn more about testing for HIV or to ask a health question, join the Gaudenzia Connect Facebook Group in the Greater Harrisburg Area.