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HIV Spreads Beyond Scott County, Officials Say It’s Isolated

Austin, Ind., is the epicenter of the HIV outbreak in Southeastern Indiana.

The HIV epidemic in Southeastern Indiana has spread to a second county, but health officials say those cases are isolated and they have no plans for changing their strategy.

Jackson County borders Scott County, where the recent HIV epidemic is believed to have originated.

At a press conference Tuesday, Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall said they have confirmed five cases of HIV in Jackson County, but that all cases are traced and contained. Numbers given at the conference were accurate as of last Friday, April 17.

The disease has spread primarily through needles shared by IV drug users.

On Monday Gov. Mike Pence extended an emergency executive order in Scott County by 30 days. That extends a temporary needle exchange program in Scott County but doesn’t expand it past county borders.

In response to what she calls the quintessential question surrounding the epidemic—why this is happening in the small town of Austin—Walthall said it stems from a larger issue.

“The sharing of needles for injection drug use is not limited to Austin. It’s Indiana’s problem, it’s the United States’ problem,” Walthall said.

She says what ultimately brought their attention to the area was a dangerous combination of HIV, Hepatitis C and injection drug use, all in one setting.

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