Scott Co. health officials sharing what they've learned about HI - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Scott Co. health officials sharing what they've learned about HIV with the rest of the country

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More than 180 people have tested positive for HIV in connection to the outbreak centered in Austin. More than 180 people have tested positive for HIV in connection to the outbreak centered in Austin.
More than 180 people have tested positive for HIV in connection to the outbreak centered in Austin. More than 180 people have tested positive for HIV in connection to the outbreak centered in Austin.
Experts say HIV epidemic was fueled by IV drug users sharing needles while using the painkiller Opana. Experts say HIV epidemic was fueled by IV drug users sharing needles while using the painkiller Opana.

SCOTTSBURG, Ind. (WDRB) -- They never expected to become ground zero for an HIV epidemic but now health officials in Scott County are sharing what they've learned with the rest of the country. This weekend, they'll fly to Atlanta for the National HIV Prevention Conference. 

More than 180 people have tested positive for HIV in connection to the outbreak centered in Austin. 

Scott County Public Health Nurse Brittany Combs has become the person other communities are now looking to for help. 

"I have people that want us to come speak all the time," Combs said. 

The epidemic sparked change in the community. A one-stop-shop opened to provide those affected with more resources. Officials also started the state's first needle exchange program. 

"It was so unique too for us because this is the first time that it was rural," Combs explained. "All the ones that have needle exchanges were all big cities." 

Monday, Combs will sit on a panel at the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta to talk about the county's needle exchange program. She's already spoken at several conferences in the state. 

"What we really, really push is the stigma around substance abuse," she said. "We don't even really understand it. Even I, a year ago, didn't understand it and I was a nurse." 

Experts say HIV epidemic was fueled by IV drug users sharing needles while using the painkiller Opana. 

Combs says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been conducting studies to try to find out what other communities could be at risk for an HIV outbreak. 

Combs says communities need to open their eyes to see if they have a problem. She's says she's hoping sharing her knowledge will lead to prevention. 

"When we needed help, we just glanced up and there were people everywhere and they were from all over the state wanting to come and help," Combs said. "And so any little part that we can do to help back, we're definitely gonna run and do it." 

That conference in Atlanta will bring more than 3,000 people together who are working to stop the spread of HIV. 

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