Driven by dirty needles, southern Ind. HIV epidemic putting city - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Driven by dirty needles, southern Ind. HIV epidemic putting city workers at risk

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A worker at a southern Indiana trash compactor says he comes in contact with needles frequently and wears two pairs of gloves at all times because of them. A worker at a southern Indiana trash compactor says he comes in contact with needles frequently and wears two pairs of gloves at all times because of them.
SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- The biggest HIV outbreak in Indiana's history is impacting more than just those infected.Austin sanitation workers say it's common for them to get poked with needles and now with the HIV outbreak, the city is considering getting them protective gear to prevent accidents.

"We need the public's help too. We need them to do their part," said Donald Spicer, Austin Chief of Police.

There are now 81 confirmed cases of HIV in southern Indiana and health officials attribute the epidemic to the sharing of dirty needles among IV drug users.

"Our garbage people who do our sanitation, they're at high risk picking up the trash obviously. That kind of stuff concerns me as well because they work for the city and we need to protect them too," Spicer told WDRB.

Spicer says it's gotten so bad, they might resort to buying protective gear for sanitation workers.

"Snake chaps or something that's puncture resistant that they could wear on their legs to help because you know when you pick a bag up, it will swing into your leg or something," he explained.

Spicer says they've already had one worker get poked with a needle.

"I think picking the bag up, like we were talking. I think the needle poked through the bag into his leg," he said.

But city workers aren't the only ones at risk.

"I've picked needles up that's fallen out of the compact and garbage trucks," said Kenny Spence, a worker at the Scottsburg Sanitation Plant.

Spence works the trash compactor there, where Austin and Scottsburg dump their trash.

He says he comes in contact with needles frequently and wears two pairs of gloves at all times because of them.

"I'm more cautious. I don't want to be stuck with a needle but there's a possibility it could fall out and hit you," Spence said.

Scottsburg Mayor Bill Graham says people are also flushing needles down drains and toilets to dispose of them, meaning sewer department workers are also in danger.

"Then you've got people there who need to make sure they're taking precautions. We're doing everything we can to protect our city workers," he told WDRB.

Officials say if you're throwing away a needle or any type of sharp object, you should put it in a sealed container.

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