JEFFERSONVILLE, Ind. (WDRB) -- Health officials say Clark County has 25 to 30 percent higher rates of HIV and Hepatitis C compared to the state. Rising drug use and a nearby HIV outbreak are growing concerns in Clark County.

The county's health officer is now asking for a needle exchange program to prevent the diseases from spreading. 

"Certainly, I feel that our higher rates of infection is a valid argument that we should do this," said Dr. Kevin Burke. 

Burke points to a rise in overdoses and location as other reasons. Clark County is close to the big city of Louisville, but it's also bordering Scott County -- the center of an epidemic where 175 people have tested positive for HIV. 

"Actually, about a month ago we found our first case of a Clark County citizen who appears to have picked up the infection in Scott County," Burke said. 

He wrote county commissioners with his concerns and is asking them to take action. 

Commissioner Jack Coffman says he knows IV drug use is a problem in the community and a recent police case highlights that. 

"There was an investigation at a vacant home where 300 needles were found," Coffman said. 

Commissioners will hold a hearing Thursday for the public to weigh in. 

Right now, Scott County and Madison County are the only counties in Indiana with approved needle exchange programs. 

Coffman says it's likely the commissioners will vote in favor of starting one in Clark County. 

The plan will then need to be approved by the Indiana State Department of Health. 

"We definitely want to get ahead of it and we don't want to be constantly fighting behind the curve," Coffman said. "The cases are increasing so us bordering Scott County, it's only a matter of time that we could possibly be in as serious a situation as theirs." 

Officials say if they are able to start a needle exchange program, it will be similar to the one operating in Scott County. 

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5:00 p.m. Thursday at the Clark County Courthouse. 

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