With a population of just over 24,000 and located deep in America’s heartland, Scott county, Indiana seems an unlikely place for an outbreak of IV drug-abuse related HIV, but later today the Governor will declare a public health emergency there for exactly that reason.
Start Date: 3/25/2015
Start Time: 12:00 AM
End Date: 3/25/2015
Indianapolis – Tomorrow, Governor Pence will hold a press conference to announce the details of his Executive Order declaring a public health emergency in Scott County. Later in the afternoon, he will visit and tour Batesville Tool & Die and Morel Company. Details below.
Thursday, March 26:
10:00 a.m. EDT – Governor Pence to hold press conference on the details of his Executive Order declaring a public health emergency in Scott County
Statehouse – Room 101, 200 W. Washington Street, Indianapolis
Reportedly plagued by high unemployment, a high dropout rate, skyrocketing teen pregnancy rates, and high drug use (see Chicago Tribune report), as of March 20th Scott County has confirmed 55 HIV infections since December, with 13 additional pending positives (see Indiana Health Dept Statement).
The CDC has deployed investigators to help with testing and containment in what they are calling an `epidemic’ of HIV. This report from NBC news.
By Bill Briggs
An HIV "epidemic" fueled by needle-sharing opiate addicts has infected at least 72 people in one southern Indiana county as Gov. Mike Pence plans to declare a public health emergency in that community on Thursday.
The outbreak's swift acceleration in Scott County — beginning with seven known HIV-positive patients in late January — has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to deploy investigators to test residents and to help control further spread of the virus, Pence said.
CDC officials arrived on Monday and "traveled to the community ... an epidemic 'aid team.' I met with them late Monday," Pence told reporters in Scottsburg, the county seat. "And they informed me that they had confirmed that we have an epidemic in Scott County."
Another seven residents from the area also tested "preliminary positive" for HIV — all similarly linked to opiate injections with dirty needles — bringing the possible caseload to nearly 80, Pence said.
When compared to the entire state of Indiana (pop. 6.6 million) which reported roughly 420 new HIV infections in 2014 (see Indiana Semi-annual HIV report), the rate of infection in Scott county is roughly 50 times higher than the state average.
As most of the Scott county cases are reportedly from the town of Austin, Indiana (pop. 4,200), the incidence of HIV infection in that town is even more pronounced.
Many local physicians are urging the establishment of a needle exchange program to slow the spread of the virus, but according to this report from the Indiana Star (Pence to declare health emergency in HIV epidemic) it is unclear whether the governor will authorize its implementation.
Gov. Mike Pence on Thursday morning is expected to reveal details of an emergency plan to address an HIV epidemic in southeastern Indiana linked to intravenous drug use. But it's not clear whether he will give the green light for clean needle exchange programs.
Just as Pence wrapped up a news conference Wednesday announcing his plans to declare a public health emergency in Scott County, a House panel embarked on a three-hour hearing on whether to pass an emergency amendment opening the door to needle exchange programs, which many medical experts believe are critical to curbing this outbreak and any others.
State health officials are working closely with local health departments, health care providers and others to contain the spread of HIV in southeastern Indiana. Disease intervention specialists are in the area, interviewing each newly identified HIV positive individual to obtain information about needle sharing and sex partners, as well as recommending care coordination services, medical care and HIV prevention information.
As of March 20, 2015, there have been 55 confirmed HIV positive cases and an additional 13 preliminary positive cases.
HIV Services Hotline: 1-866-588-4948
Addiction Hotline (24/7): 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
HIV Treatment Works