5 new HIV cases found in county

Five new cases of HIV have been identified in Jackson County, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

Health officials said the handful of cases have been identified through tests and tracing of contacts of HIV-positive individuals. Those who tested positive have been re-evaluated and are considered low-risk, so no additional cases of HIV have been related to those reported.

As of Monday, there are 135 HIV-positive cases in the southeastern Indiana outbreak, which includes 129 confirmed and six preliminary cases.

In addition to Jackson, the counties affected include Perry, Clark, Washington and Scott. Most of the cases are in Scott County.

A large majority of the cases are connected to injection drug use, particularly the opioid pain medication Opana. However, health officials said they could not release information about how the five in Jackson County contracted it.

As to how many cases of HIV there are in Jackson County annually, those numbers were not available because they are not tracked at the local health department.

Lin Montgomery, public health coordinator for the Jackson County Health Department, said there have been discussions among local health officials to offer HIV testing and services locally. But the idea is only preliminary, and there are no details at this time.

“With this epidemic, we must encourage people to specifically not share needles and to use the appropriate sexual protection,” she said.

To get tested, Positive Link will offer free services from 3 to 6 p.m. April 30 at Walgreens, 319 E. Tipton St., Seymour.

Positive Link is a program of Indiana University Health Bloomington Hospital Community Health that offers free HIV prevention and testing services and direct services for those infected with HIV.

HIV testing also is available at the One-Stop Shop at the Austin Community Outreach Center, 2277 W. Frontage Road, Austin.

However, Jackson County residents cannot participate in the needle exchange program there. It is only open to Scott County residents.

The program, recently extended by Gov. Mike Pence, allows participants to be provided with needles for a week, counseling for drug abuse and plastic containers for safe disposal of used needles.

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One-Stop Shop at the Austin Community Outreach Center is located at 2277 W. Frontage Road, Austin.

It is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Saturday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday and Friday; and noon to 6 p.m. Sunday. Call 317-605-1480.

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Positive Link will conduct free HIV testing from 3 to 6 p.m. April 30 at Walgreens, 319 E. Tipton St. in Seymour. To make an appointment, call 812-353-9150.