Top CDC officials meet in Indiana to discuss HIV outbreak - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Top CDC officials meet in Indiana to discuss HIV outbreak

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There are more than 140 confirmed cases of HIV. The large majority of cases are caused by sharing needles while injecting drugs. There are more than 140 confirmed cases of HIV. The large majority of cases are caused by sharing needles while injecting drugs.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Top officials from the CDC were in Austin, Indiana, Tuesday morning to discuss response to the HIV outbreak. They've been meeting with Indiana Governor Mike Pence and state health officials.

There are more than 140 confirmed cases of HIV. The large majority of cases are caused by sharing needles while injecting drugs.

"We need to get every HIV-positive citizen into treatment, and every HIV-negative citizen with high risk-exposure also into treatment," said Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall, M.D. "We need to trace every contact, we need to overcome fear and rumor to test broadly for HIV and Hepatitis C."

Several CDC employees have been on the ground in Scott County since late March.

"This is the first outbreak of HIV among injection drug users injecting an oral opioid in a rural community in recent years," said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention. 

He says the CDC is addressing the HIV epidemic in three ways, which includes helping Scott County and the state with their response and tracking data to see if this is happening elsewhere. 

"The third level is to try to put in preventive measures throughout the nation where people are high risk of having something like this happen so that we don't have to see this in other places and other communities don't have to go through the difficult times that are currently happening in Austin," Mermin said. 

There's been a local, state and federal response in the Austin area. It's led to more resources and education campaigns. Some are still in the works. 

"We're actually very concerned about the truck drivers who passed through. This area is right along the I-65 corridor, passes through many states so we've developed some messaging that's specific to the truck driving population," said Indiana State Department of Health Spokesperson Amy Reel. 

Officials say they plan to expand testing availability and the success of a needle exchange program continues to grow. Local health officials say more than 160 people have taken part in the temporary program and thousands of needles have been exchanged. 

"We want to make sure we do it right here in Scott County," said State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams. "Then if it happens elsewhere, people can look at the successes we've had and use them to hopefully not have an outbreak occur in as severe of capacity in other areas." 

Officials are urging residents to get tested. It's free, confidential and they'll make home visits if you don't have transportation.

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