Sunday, April 12, 2015

HIV Infections In Scott County Top 100 As Health Officials Begin Distributing Needles To Drug Users

The Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette's Jeff Weihe has a lengthy story today in which he paints a very grim picture of conditions in rural Scott County in Southern Indiana where health officials now say at least 106 people have recently tested positive for HIV, which health officials say is being spread by infected needles used by intravenous drug users. Media from all over the country have descended upon the area to report on the story. Officials tell Weihe the small town of Austin, population 4,200, is the epicenter of the HIV outbreak where they attribute a pain drug, Opana, which is being used in liquid form, not the meth that has racked this region for the past two decades, for the spread of the disease.
A walk through the North End neighborhood of Austin is a telling example of this town’s place in this world.
More so than along the partly abandoned Main Street minutes away, the county’s 19 percent poverty rate is on full display here, with homes littered with scrap and trash, rusted and broken basketball hoops, battered facades, old and junked cars and plywood boards over windows.
Nearly every home has a warning to keep off the property.
“We’re a little standoffish,” Spicer says of the town’s mentality. “If you’re my friend, you’re my friend. If you’re not, well, keep away from me.”
It’s in the North End where Spicer believes drug use took off and where the sharing of needles became commonplace – and hence, the area where HIV began spreading throughout the town.
Spicer and other locals said the closing of factories nearby and the lack of jobs for people in an already low income town has plunged Austin into where it is now – devoid of restaurants, a grocery store, opportunities.
Austin sits 10 miles from Scottsburg, which is also where the nearest hotels are, but transportation for people suffering hard times makes it nearly impossible for them to seek employment there or elsewhere.
Interstate 65 runs through the area, which also brings plenty of drugs as well as people looking for prostitutes, with some in Austin happy to oblige for the money.
Also, according to Spicer, some elderly residents are selling legally obtained pain medication to the younger generation on the streets to make cash. 
 “It’s a black market and people need money,” Spicer said. “People will exploit people for money.”. . . 
It’s easy to find used needles along the streets of the North End. Some people even find them on playgrounds. Officials urge parents whose children suffer an accidental prick while playing to get to a hospital immediately. 
When it rains, officials said, the needles sometimes wash up from the sewers and can be found in the gutters of the streets. 
Those stories may sound dire, crazy even, but officials conducted a cleanup day Saturday when volunteers were trained and wore specialized suits when they went out and looked for needles . . . 
Wiehe's story bemoans the fact a Plannned Parenthood clinic in Scott County, the only place until the health crisis erupted where local residents could get tested for HIV in the county, was closed due to budget cuts "spearheaded by Republican lawmakers" in 2013. Health officials have distributed more than 1,000 needles to drug users in exchange for used syringes and needles in an effort to stem new infections. The needle exchange program was approved under an emergency order approved by Gov. Mike Pence, which is limited to Scott County.

7 comments:

Indy Rob said...

Just because Planned Parenthood wants to describe themselves as the only place (for an Austin resident) to get an HIV test does not make it true.

From Austin, Indianapolis is 75 minutes, Columbus is 34 minutes. Not walk down to the corner convenient, but anyone worried about HIV had options for getting a test.

Anonymous said...

Whoever is the head of the State Health Dept.
and whoever is the commander of the ISPD section are, should be immediately removed by Pence from their jobs for being so
unbelievably oblivious to this crisis.

Gary R. Welsh said...

The serious drug problem in that part of the state existed long before Pence became Indiana governor, particularly with the arrival of meth as a drug of choice for lower-income drug abusers. I'm not trying to make excuses for Pence, but the fact is there had not been any significant correlation between the rampant drug abuse problem in that region and HIV infection rates until this year. Meth users have been sharing needles for years. I would be interested in learning what happened to suddenly result in IV drug users in just that particularly region to encounter such high rates of infection.

Anonymous said...

Now you're asking the right question, Gary. Dig deeper. The World Health Organization introduced AIDS to Africa with its small pox vaccine that was tainted with the artificially-produced human immunodeficiency virus. An experimental Hepatitis B vaccine used to vaccinate gay men in this country introduced the virus into this country. Later, the virus started appearing in the American black community among IV drug users. People have been intentionally infected with HIV from the very beginning of this deadly disease by powerful people with a very evil agenda.

Marycatherine Barton said...

Good for the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette reporting on rural Scott County. Just as the residents told Weihe, "the closing of factories nearby and the lack of jobs for people in an already low income town has plunged Austin into where it is now == devoid of restaurants, a grocery store, opportunities."

As VidRebel at his wordpress reminds us again this week, "The fundamental fact of your existence as a modern man or woman is that the bankers of New York and London want to reduce you to debt slavery." Wake up Hoosiers!

Anonymous said...

Endo Health Solutions in Malvern, Pennsylvania manufactures Opana. The CEO of the company is Rajiv De Silva, formerly of Novartis and a former principal of McKinsey & Co.

Unknown said...

Very good. Unfortunately, the information you shared will fall on "deaf ears" and collapsed veins.