Scott County health officials to take on larger role in HIV epid - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Scott County health officials to take on larger role in HIV epidemic response

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (WDRB) - The number of  HIV positive people connected to a southern Indiana epidemic is now up to 170. 

While the amount of new cases each week has dramatically decreased in Scott County, the work to keep it from spreading must continue. 

Officials say the majority of those affected by the outbreak are IV drug users who have shared needles. 

"If we aren't vigilant, then we could have a recurrence at any point in the next 40 to 50 years because of the reservoir of HIV that now exists within this community," said Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams. 

According to the state's statistics: there are 491 contacts associated with the outbreak. Of those contacts, 408 have been located and offered testing. Officials say 196 people have tested positive and 257 people have tested negative. The state says health specialists haven't been able to find 46 people, 21 have refused testing and 16 are out of the jurisdiction. 

Resources have poured into Austin over the past few months in response to the outbreak but health commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams says it's time for Scott County to take a bigger role. 

The state's Department of Health says it will help fund new positions. 

"Adding one public health nurse to the Scott County Health Department, two new care coordinators, one disease investigation specialist, one full-time HIV and Hepatitis C tester and an additional jail nurse," said Deputy Health Commissioner Dr. Jennifer Walthall. 

State officials released a long list of services Wednesday that they plan to keep available. Some of those include free HIV testing, the needle exchange program and clinical care in town and inside the jail. 

State officials also say LifeSpring plans to open a satellite location in the Austin area to help people struggling with addiction. 

"Having a location in Austin specifically for all of these services is essential for a sustainable local community plan that works," Walthall said. 

The times and dates of when those services will operate are still not clear.

Local officials tell us they will not stay in the Community Outreach Center, which has acted as a one-stop-shop for services over the past couple months.

We're told that the exact locations of these resources in Austin are still being worked out.

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