Indiana’s HIV epidemic is now a public health emergency
Yesterday was a busy day for Gov. Mike Pence. He signed into law a controversial religious freedom bill — Religious Freedom Restoration Act — which allows business owners to refuse service to same-sex couples, alleging religious reasons. But it was not the only issue he has to dealt with. Pence also declared a public health emergency in Scott County due to an HIV epidemic.
The county normally registers around five new HIV cases per year, and the recent drastic upswing to 79 is being tied to needle-sharing during the illegal use of Opana — a painkiller available in pill form via prescription. As a consequence, Pence has authorized a short-term needle exchange program which will be in effect for 30 days.
Indiana’s law forbids needle exchanges, but during the public health emergency clinics and health centers in Scott County will be allowed to give clean needles to people in exchange for used ones. “I’m going to put the lives of the people of Indiana first,” Pence explained.
In addition to the needle exchange, Indiana has launched an awareness campaign focused on the prevention of HIV. ¨Scott County is facing an epidemic of HIV, but this is not a Scott County problem, this is an Indiana problem,¨ Pence added.