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Indiana County Struggles With 100-Plus HIV Cases

Outbreak in rural Scott County tied to sharing of needles
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 11, 2015 8:00 AM CDT

(Newser) – More than 100 people in southeastern Indiana have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak linked to the sharing of intravenous needles. The state's Joint Information Center said there had been 95 confirmed HIV cases and 11 preliminary positive cases tied to the outbreak as of Thursday. All of those cases have been linked to needle-sharing among intravenous drug users, most of whom injected a liquefied form of the prescription painkiller Opana. Indiana's largest-ever HIV outbreak has hit Scott County, a rural, economically-struggling area about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. Typically, the county sees five HIV cases a year.

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Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in the county March 26 that temporarily waived the state's ban on needle-exchange programs, although solely for that county. That program began last Saturday in Austin—a city of about 4,500 residents that's the epicenter of the outbreak, but as of Monday only four people had joined the needle-exchange. Those four had exchanged 300 used needles and received 168 new, clean ones in return. Authorities said they're trying to combat unfounded fears among drug users that they could be arrested if they take part in the program. (Read more Indiana stories.)

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