Needle Exchange Program Helped to Slow HIV Outbreak in Indiana

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Continued testing is being emphasized as the outbreak in Indiana slows down.
Continued testing is being emphasized as the outbreak in Indiana slows down.

SAN DIEGO —  Continued treatment and testing are priority goals for health officials in Indiana, as the HIV outbreak in a rural community in Indiana begins to slow down, according to a speaker at IDWeek 2015. 

Diane M. Janowicz, MD, of the Division of Infectious Diseases, Indiana University School of Medicine, revealed details about the outbreak, which was associated with the injection of a common prescription painkiller. 

"I think this outbreak was a canary in the coalmine for a lot of us," Dr Janowicz said during her discussion.

She said prior to this outbreak, there had been less than five HIV patients annually reported with HIV in the county, but since the start of the outbreak in late 2014, 181 people have now been diagnosed with the virus.1,2 The median age of those affected by the outbreak has been 33 years, with age ranges from 18-60. Almost all patients are coinfected with hepatitis C, Dr Janowicz noted.

Following the first reports of the outbreak, Dr Janowicz noted that health officials immediately launched a media awareness campaign, using billboards, news stories, and other sources to get the word out about the rising rates of HIV.

Next, a "one stop shop" for health services was established in the community, Dr Janowicz explained. This clinic was open seven days a week, from early morning until late at night, so that people could come in and exchange needles, have access to HIV and hepatitis testing, and, be provided with assistance in enrolling in health insurance plans.

Discussing the needle exchange program, Dr Janowicz noted the program has now been operating for at least a year, and about 48,000 needles have been dispensed. In addition to the exchange program, the program offers rehabilitation services, which she described as an "essential component to the response of this outbreak," assisting in slowing down the outbreak.

References

1.     Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC Health Advisory, Outbreak of Recent HIV and HCV Infections among Persons Who Inject Drugs. 

2.     The Hill, CDC sounds alarm over Indiana HIV outbreak


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