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Scott County votes to allow needle exchange program to combat HIV outbreak

By Stephanie Wiechmann | Published on in Uncategorized

Indiana’s Scott County has approved a short-term needle exchange program to help combat an outbreak of HIV cases linked to IV drug use.

Needle exchanges are illegal in Indiana, but a public health emergency declaration signed by Governor Mike Pence yesterday morning allows what he calls a “short term” exchange. Programs like this around the country allow health clinics to give sterile syringes to people who bring in used syringes. The Scott County Board of Health voted to approve such a program last night and the Indiana State Department of Health will help implement the exchange.

Eighty-one cases of HIV have been confirmed in Scott County, which usually sees fewer than five new cases a year. County Health Officer R. Kevin Rogers says health workers are using rapid HIV tests that use a person’s saliva to look for the virus. Positive rapid tests must be confirmed with a traditional blood test, but rapid test results are available in 20 minutes and can quickly identify those who don’t have the virus.