Indiana Daily Student

Indiana HIV outbreak caused by drugs

A recent outbreak of HIV in southeastern Indiana has been raising alarms among health officials throughout the state.

As of March 3, there have been 27 confirmed cases of HIV and 10 preliminary cases, the biggest outbreak of the disease Indiana has ever seen concentrated in one region, according to officials.

State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H. said a majority of the cases are linked through injection drug abuse by the prescription drug Opana, which is an opioid painkiller that contains ?oxymorphone.

“It is very concerning to me that most of the individuals who have tested HIV-positive have only recently contracted the virus,” Adams said in a press release. “Because prescription drug abuse is at the heart of this outbreak, we are not only working to identify, contact and test individuals who may have been exposed but also to connect community members to resources for substance abuse treatment and ?recovery.”

A small number of the positive cases have also been linked to sexual ?contact.

The Indiana Department of Health has been working to suppress the outbreak and limit the number of individuals infected with HIV.

Specialists are in the southeastern region interviewing those who have been newly infected to find out who they came in contact with and who else might be at risk in addition to providing medical and preventive care to infected individuals.

HIV was first observed in the United States in the 1980s and can lead to AIDS.

HIV is only transferable by certain bodily fluids, with sexual contact and sharing needles being the two main methods of transmission.

In 2010, 8 percent of newly-infected individuals obtained the disease through sharing needles, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

There are currently more than 1.2 million people in the U.S. living with HIV and an estimated 14 percent of those individuals are unaware they have this disease.

In 2012 alone, an estimated 47,989 people were newly diagnosed as ?HIV-positive.

Dr. Beth Meyerson, assistant professor in ?Applied Health Science at IU and the co-director for the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, said drug abusers’ limited access to clean needles is a major cause for the spread of diseases such as HIV in ?Indiana.

“From some of the policy cases that need to be emerged and talked about is ‘How does Indiana ?provide access to clean syringes throughout the state?’“ Meyerson said. “We have one syringe ?exchange center in the state, and we have a law that makes users provide information to a pharmacist to get needles.”

She explained that having to provide personal information deters drug-users from obtaining clean needles and syringes.

The Indiana Department of Health advises all Hoosiers get tested for HIV if they have engaged in any high-risk behaviors such as sharing needles or engaging in unprotected sex.

They also recommend people stay safe by not ?injecting drugs, sharing or re-using needles, engaging in unprotected sex or having sex with commercial sex workers.

Meyerson noted that while the outbreak is ?occurring in southeastern Indiana, Bloomington is not exempt from a prevalence of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

“If folks are concerned about that and other STDs, you can always get tested,” she said. “Think about the sex that you’re having and how to ?protect yourself better. Forget the outbreak. Do you even ?really know who you’re having sex with, and are they healthy?”

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