CHICAGO (CBS) — Though Indiana Gov. Mike Pence opposes needle exchanges, he’s authorized a needle-exchange program for an Indiana county that’s being ravaged by HIV.
The outbreak led Gov. Pence to declare a public health emergency Thursday morning.
According to officials, there have been 79 new HIV infections confirmed in Scott County since January. The county only has about 24,000 residents, and usually sees fewer than five HIV infections a year.
Needle-exchange programs allow people to trade used hypodermic needles for clean ones. Indiana bars needle exchanges, but federal recommendations and dire circumstances have prompted Gov. Pence’s authorization.
“Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem; this is an Indiana problem,” said Gov. Pence in a press release. “The people of Scott County are working hard to address this crisis, and with additional state resources and new tools provided by this emergency declaration, I am confident that together we will stop this HIV outbreak in its tracks.”
The Indiana State Department of Health, with help from local health officials, drug treatment facilities, local medical providers, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has been addressing the HIV outbreak since it was first identified in later January. Gov. Pence met with the CDC on Monday and visited Scott County on Wednesday before officially declaring a public health emergency Thursday morning.
It is unclear how long the needle exchange, which was described by Gov. Pence’s office as “targeted” and “short-term,” will last.
Read more at CBS Cleveland.