“One of the fastest-spreading recorded U.S. outbreaks of HIV since the inception of the epidemic is now occurring in southeastern Indiana, and it is being driven by injection drug use—specifically, abuse of the opioid painkiller Opana (oxymorphone). Sadly, this outbreak was preventable, given all that we know about HIV and its links to opioid addiction, yet adequate treatment resources and public health safeguards were not in place.
Following the discovery of 11 new HIV cases in Indiana’s rural Scott County in January, positive tests have been reported almost daily, and health investigators are actively locating and testing people who may have shared needles or had sex with those infected. The Indiana State Department of Health reports the number of new HIV cases has risen to 150 as of May 7. This county of 4200 people used to see under five new HIV cases each year. Most of those infected with HIV are also co-infected with the hepatitis C virus, according to the CDC.
This epidemic should not have happened. We have known for many years that providing free needles to injection drug users is a strategy that can prevent the spread of HIV in a community. A temporary emergency needle exchange program went into effect in Scott County in early April, but this was far too late to prevent the outbreak. Injection drug users receive enough clean needles for a week’s use in exchange for their used ones; however, they are asked to provide identifying information to the outreach center coordinating the program, which may deter some potential users.”
Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse – May 11, 2015