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article imageInside the HIV outbreak in Indiana Special

By Tim Sandle     Apr 7, 2015 in Health
Indianapolis - Indiana has seen a rise in HIV rates. The state’s governor, Mike Pence has declared the outbreak a public health emergency. The primary cause appears to be drug abuse.
Talking about the issue with Digital Journal, Kent Runyon of Novus Medical Detox Center suggests that the solution lies in drug education.
To put the issue into context: from December 2014, over 80 people in Scott County, Indiana, have tested positive for HIV. The majority of the cases, the New York Times reports, have been in March 2015 and most of them in the city of Austin.
According to Kent Runyon, the Scott County HIV epidemic is the worst outbreak in Indiana’s history. Prior to December last year, incidents were very rare and these low-level rates were actually in decline. This matches a slight decline in U.S. nationwide results. The majority of cases across the U.S. are in urban areas (94 percent of cases against 6 percent in counties with fewer than 50,000 people.)
The Indiana issue is linked to abuse of a prescription drug Opana (which is an opioid painkiller.) A trend for abusing this medication began in 2010 Opana very potent. A statement from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control notes that prescription drug abuse has become “the scourge of rural America.” Prescription drug abuse currently causes more deaths than either heroin and cocaine.
Discussing the Opana issue, Runyon notes that the victim of HIV “obviously knew each other, thought they trusted each other, and had this incredible comfortable level that needle sharers share.”
He added: “This really speaks again to the desperation of those suffering from addiction.”
Runyon and his facility, Novus, have been raising in the media a strong concern about the lack of drug education. Here Runyon notes: “people need to know the deadly chain of events that occur from being prescribed schedule II narcotics and the ripple effects it has in our society. Now there is a new face of addiction.”
To try to stem the tide, Scott County has put in place a short-term needle exchange program to provide drug users with clean needles. It is estimated that the risk of contracting HIV from sharing a needle with someone who has HIV is about 8 in 10. Runyon sees clean needles as a core part of drug education. Here he states: “The more we can inform people about the risks associated with drug use, the more lives we can ultimately save.”
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