Indiana Governor Mike Pence declared a state of emergency due to an HIV outbreak in the state. Governor Pence said a public health emergency is warranted because the Indiana HIV outbreak is spreading rapidly. The southern part of the state has reportedly been hit particularly hard by the deadly infection in recent months.
The Scott County, Indiana, HIV outbreak has reportedly been growing since December. At least 72 people in the rural county have tested positive for HIV and another seven have reportedly been given “preliminary” positive results for the infectious disease, which can lead to Aids. Typically, the Indiana county experiences about five cases of HIV per year, according to state health officials.
During a press conference about the Indiana HIV outbreak on Wednesday, Governor Mike Pence stated that he is currently considering a needle exchange program to go along with the public health emergency decree. The Republican Indiana governor also noted that while he generally opposes needle exchange programs as a method of drug control, he has opted to adhere to suggestions offered by health officials in an attempt to curtail the HIV outbreak.
“I’m going to make a decision on the best science and the best way to stop this virus and this outbreak in its tracks,” Governor Pence said.
Indiana health officials expect the HIV outbreak to continue in the coming weeks and months. Staffers from the state health agency are in the midst of contacting approximately 100 people with close ties to the patients with confirmed cases of HIV. Indiana state epidemiologist Pam Pontones revealed that the vast majority of the Indiana HIV cases have been linked to IV drug use.
HIV awareness campaign efforts ongoing across Indiana include outreach via social media and billboards. The state health department has deployed a medical unit to Scott County to help curb the HIV outbreak. Staffers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) arrived in the rural Indiana county earlier this week.
Clark County, Indiana, public health officer Doctor Kevin Burke said he hopes that even though Governor Mike Pence is planning to create a temporary needle exchange program, the state legislature will ultimately act on the issue.
“A 30-day program would be much too short. You’re not going to help those people long-term,” Doctor Burke added.
What do you think about the Indiana HIV outbreak and the Indiana state of emergency declared by Governor Mike Pence?
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