HIV

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?"

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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.

needle exchange
Joe Mabel/Wikimedia Commons

Public health officials in Southeastern Indiana have been scrambling to contain an outbreak of HIV linked to intravenous drug use. Now, one Indiana lawmaker plans to introduce an amendment on Wednesday that would permit the distribution of clean needles to IV drug users.

Leon Richardson is 18 years old and tall, charismatic and thoughtful about his sexual health.

He understands that as a young, gay black man, he is in the demographic with the highest rate of HIV infections in the country. But when Richardson learned that he could be part of an HIV prevention pill research study for young people, he was skeptical.

"I was scared. I had to really think about it, 'What is this drug going to do to me?' " he says.

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.


Scientists have engineered a new molecule they say can block infection with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Researchers from the Scripps Research Institute say they’ve found a new way to prevent HIV from infecting cells, even if it’s present in the body.

The study was published online today in the journal Nature. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson speaks with lead author Michael Farzan.

If you want to be a pessimist about the shape the world's in, just turn on the news. It seems as if we're living in an age of terrorism, war, refugees, hostages and natural disasters.

If you have an obsessive but irrational fear, it would probably be pretty difficult for anyone to talk you out of it. Because irrational fears, by definition, aren't rational, which is one of the reasons having obsessive-compulsive disorder is such a nightmare.

For science reporter David Adam, he's obsessed with HIV.

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