HIV in Scott County, Indiana

A temporary needle exchange program is set up at a Community Outreach Center in Austin, Ind.
Barbara Harrington / WFIU/WTIU

More than 130 people have tested positive since December, and the outbreak is no longer contained to just Scott County.

As the number of people living with HIV in Indiana increases, health officials, politicians and everyday people remain at odds over how to stop the disease from spreading.


Melissa Johnson/Flickr

Legislation that would allow needle exchanges in some Indiana counties cleared the House Public Health Committee on Monday. 

Last week, Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in Scott County, which has seen about 80 new HIV cases in just the last few months. Though Pence has allowed a needle exchange to operate in the county for 30 days, he has maintained his opposition to allowing needle exchanges statewide.

Shane Avery practices family medicine in Scott County, Ind. In December, a patient came to his office who was pregnant, and an injection drug user.

After running some routine tests, Avery found out that she was positive for HIV. She was the second case he had seen in just a few weeks.

"Right then, I kind of realized, 'Wow, are we on the tip of something?' " Avery says. "But you just put it away. ... It's statistically an oddity when you're just one little doctor, you know?"

Bordecla34

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence issued an executive order today declaring a public health emergency in Scott County in response to a growing outbreak of HIV. His order includes authorization for a "targeted" clean needle exchange.

Clean needle exchanges are illegal in Indiana and the governor has said he opposes them as an addiction-fighting strategy, but is making an exception in the case of Scott County. The number of cases has now grown to 79 since the outbreak was first identified in January.

HIV public health brochure
Jake Harper/WFYI

A couple of weeks ago, Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs started getting a lot more calls asking about STD testing.


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