Pubdate: Fri, 06 Jan 2017
Source: Morning Call (Allentown, PA)
Copyright: 2017 The Morning Call Inc.


[photo] A sign points to the entrance the Community Outreach Center in
Austin, Ind., on April 4, 2015. (Tyler Stewart, AP)

State and local health officials began a needle-exchange program Saturday
in a southeastern Indiana county where an HIV outbreak among intravenous
drug users has grown to nearly 90 cases.

Scott County's needle-exchange program was created through an emergency
executive order signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence in an attempt to curb
the state's largest-ever HIV outbreak. That 30-day order temporarily
suspended Indiana's ban on such programs, but only for the southeastern
Indiana county about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky.

"While (Pence) has been clear that he does not support needle exchange as
anti-drug policy on an ongoing basis, he's been equally clear about his
concern over this outbreak, and has taken a critical step to end this
outbreak by allowing this needle exchange to occur," Indiana Health
Commissioner Jerome Adams said, according to the News and Tribune in

The program is open only to Scott County residents through the Community
Outreach Center in the city of Austin, the epicenter of the epidemic. That
region now has 84 confirmed HIV cases and five preliminary positive cases.

Each participant will initially receive enough needles for one week to
help combat the needle-sharing that's caused the epidemic.

The center will also offer free HIV screening, drug treatment referrals
and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations.

Adams emphasized that people should not feel ashamed to seek help,
including HIV testing.

"If we don't pay close attention to what's going on here, we're going to
be doomed to repeat it throughout all of Indiana, and our country," the
newspaper quoted him as saying.

The executive order permitting the program could be extended if needed.
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