LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The HIV outbreak in southern Indiana may have started within the last six to 12 months, according to genetic testing by federal health officials.

The testing shows 99 percent of the people infected with HIV in the recent outbreak have the same strain of the virus.

Health experts say the results suggest this HIV strain was introduced to the area within the past year.

They say 99 percent of the people infected have the same strain. The number of confirmed cases stands at 154, along with a preliminary positive.

More than 12,000 dirty needles have been turned in and more than 14,000 have been provided through the clean needle exchange program.

The Scott County Health Department set up a 'one-stop' center to help address the problem.

It offers free HIV testing, vaccinations and drug rehab referrals -- among other options.

The Austin Police chief says his department is working with Scottsburg Police and Indiana State Police to combat the problem.

"We are working together and we have strength in numbers," Austin Police Chief Donald Spicer said. "We've made about 32 arrests over the last year or from investigations during that last year, so we're continuing to do those things and that's how we're combating a lot of what's going on with the drug use -- just working together."

Health officials say many of the HIV patients have also been co-infected with Hepatitis C.

Along with the needle exchange program, addiction treatment is also being offered at LifeSpring Mental Health Services in Scott County.

Officials have already seen an increase this year in clients admitted for inpatient care.

More: Southern Indiana HIV outbreak

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