New CDC report says needle exchange in Scott County, Indiana, is working

AUSTIN, Ind. (WDRB) -- For the past three years, the needle exchange in Scott County has been considered controversial.

But the Center for Disease Control said it’s working, and needle sharing has dropped by 52 percent.

The needle exchange was a response to the HIV epidemic that rocked Scott County in 2015. In part, the breakout was the result of drug use and needle sharing.

“No one wants to be an addict,” said Scott County Health Department Preparedness Coordinator Patti Hall. “It's something they cannot fight on their own.”

So in response to the HIV epidemic, where more than 200 people were diagnosed, a needle exchange program was started.

“We know that the needle exchange does work,” Hall said.

The proof it works is in a CDC report released Wednesday. Researchers interviewed people who injected drugs both before and after the needle exchange. It was found that because of the exchange, needle sharing fell from 74 percent to 22 percent.

“That's amazing, and that's just awesome,” Hall said.

It also found that nearly half of the respondents had never been tested for HIV until the outbreak. And of those who tested positive for HIV, 98 percent now use the exchange to get clean needles to prevent the spread.

“People are scared enough to know not to share anymore," Hall said. "They know the consequences, and therefore, they are wanting to do the best they can in fighting their addiction and working toward getting healthy themselves."

The Scott County Health Department offers more than just the exchange. It also offers HIV testing, education, immunizations, insurance help and more at the one-stop shop.

“It would be a very scary thought as to where we would be if the needle exchange had not existed and started when it did,” Hall said.

For more information on the needle exchange and one-stop shop including hours and locations, click here.

Copyright 2018 WDRB Media. All rights reserved.