HIV outbreak, needle-exchange facility moves to new location

The site to receive testing for HIV and participate in a needle-exchange program in Scott County has been moved.

The Scott County Health Department collaborated with Scott Memorial Hospital in leasing a building at 825 U.S. 31 North in Austin. County commissioners and the hospital recently entered into the lease agreement.

Located between Broadway Street and Wilbur Avenue, the building at one time housed a doctor’s office.

The Indiana State Department of Health conducted a town hall meeting June 16 in Scott County to discuss the transition process and long-term sustainability efforts in the HIV outbreak response.

One of the goals was to move the One-Stop Shop to an alternative location and offer services one day a week for the duration of the public health emergency, which was initially declared March 26 by Gov. Mike Pence.

That executive order was for 30 days but later was extended until next May.

“The planning process for sustainability began the day we started our response and will continue for the foreseeable future,” state Health Commissioner Jerome Adams said. “This is an unprecedented outbreak, and we will continue to work with our partners every step of the way.”

The Community Outreach Center, which housed the One-Stop Shop near Interstate 65, was closed June 25.

Beginning this past Wednesday, all services previously offered at the Community Outreach Center are now at the new location from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays.

Along with free HIV testing, services include birth certificates, state-issued identifications, presumptive eligibility (Healthy Indiana Plan 2.0), workforce development (high school equivalency testing information, job search), counseling, care coor-dination and adult immunizations.

The needle-exchange program, only open to Scott County residents, will operate from 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays, 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays and 9 to 4 p.m. Wednesdays. Also, the mobile unit will be running Friday afternoons.

The program allows participating individuals to receive enough needles for one week based on reported drug use. They are provided with thick plastic boxes called sharps containers to collect needles after they are used, and people bring their used needles to exchange for clean ones.

The needle-exchange program, which has nearly 200 participants, has provided more than 28,600 clean syringes and brought in more than 27,800. The latter number also includes needles collected by the public and during community sweeps.

As participation in the program continues, health officials expect the number of needles returned to more closely match the number of syringes provided.

Since opening April 4, the One-Stop Shop has had more than 1,000 visitors and performed more than 330 HIV tests.

The HIV outbreak in southeastern Indiana recently reached 170 cases. Most of those are in Scott County, but Jackson, Washington, Clark and Perry counties also are affected.

State health officials have said the growing drug problem has sparked a rise in HIV cases, which are linked to injection drug abuse of the prescription opioid painkiller Opana, with some individuals also reporting sexual intercourse as a possible mode of transmission.

On June 27, the state health department issued a public health emergency for Madison County because of a sharp increase in hepatitis C cases. That granted the county’s health department permission to begin a syringe exchange among intravenous drug users in the county.

Hepatitis C cases in Madison County doubled from 2013 to 2014, and officials say the numbers for the first half of this year are the same as last year, The Associated Press reported.

Hepatitis C is an infection caused by a virus that attacks the liver and leads to inflammation. Eighty percent of intravenous drug users afflicted with HIV also have hepatitis C, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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The One-Stop Shop in Austin has been moved to 825 U.S. 31 North.

Services offered from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays include free HIV testing; vaccinations against tetanus and hepatitis A and B; and information about HIV and hepatitis prevention, treatment and resources. Substance abuse referrals are available, and individuals can get assistance in enrolling in Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP 2.0) insurance. The One-Stop Shop information line is 317-605-1480.

For those participating in the needle-exchange program, hours are 3 to 6 p.m. Mondays and Thursdays; 3 to 8 p.m. Tuesdays; and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays. The mobile unit is running Friday afternoons.

Grace Covenant Church is providing free shuttle service to and from Austin by calling 317-617-2223.

Hoosiers who do not have health care coverage or access to a doctor are encouraged to check availability for HIP 2.0 by visiting HIP.IN.gov or calling 877-GET-HIP-9.

For information, visit the Indiana State Department of Health at statehealth.in.gov or follow the agency on Twitter at @StateHealthIN and on Facebook at facebook.com/isdh1. Use #INstopHIV to follow the outbreak response on Twitter.

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