Indiana Daily Student

LETTER: Indiana needs long-term needle exchange

In the wake of the HIV epidemic in Scott County, we Hoosiers need to take a moment to re-evaluate our priorities.

While much of the conversation has focused on Mike Pence’s acquiescing to the Center for Disease Contol’s temporary needle exchange program, we must also consider what has led to this current situation. In 2014, Indiana ranked as the 47th state in the union for state-level health program funding.

Over the last decade, we have seen the erosion of Indiana’s health infrastructure, the two-year delay of the Federal Medicaid expansion and the closing of HIV testing centers statewide, including four in ?southern Indiana.

In fact, until a few weeks ago there were no HIV testing centers in Scott County whatsoever. What we do have in abundance, however, are parsimonious politicians neglecting or defunding ?essential programs.

While a 30-day trial period for needle exchange programs is a start, it is a woefully insufficient amount of time.

We need to speak to our lawmakers and let them know these are our lives we’re talking about. We need to let them know the program in Scott County is a good start in addressing this epidemic, but it needs to be extended to the whole state indefinitely to be ?effective.

We can no longer accept hesitation, moralistic navel-gazing and neglect in the place of effective ?governance.

Unfortunately for conservative politicians, real people have sex, use intravenous drugs and contract HIV.

These real people live in the same real world as the rest of us. Ignoring this crisis will affect everyone in ?Indiana. Ignoring the needs of the state is not fiscal responsibility, and it certainly is not the same as enacting effective public policy.

We need Pence to realize what the Center for Disease Control, National Institutes of Health and American Medical Association all agree on, that needle exchange programs work as effective harm-reduction approaches to the problem of HIV and Hepatitis C transmission.

We need to encourage him to extend emergency needle exchange programming long-term and expand this policy to include more than just Scott County.

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