Since December, the state of Indiana has experienced its largest HIV outbreak in history. In that time, over 160 individuals have tested positive for this virus. The majority of the HIV cases have been connected to the use of injection drugs. The county has changed its tune about needle exchange programs, now offering the drug users access to clean needles in order to fight the spread of the disease.
Until April, needle exchanges were banned in the state of Indiana. At the beginning of April, the first ever program of this type was started on a temporary basis. Last week, the state of Indiana approved the request of Scott County, the epicenter of the outbreak, to extend the program for a year. Individual counties are still required to get state approval before starting programs such as this one.
The program appears to be gaining effectiveness, as an increasing number of people are using it. There were only four people who utilized it in the first week, and now, there are over 170 people who have done so. Every day, hundreds of used syringes are being traded for clean ones.
Many Indiana people have historically been against needle exchange programs, due to the prevailing opinion that they enable drug use. However, people are warming up to the viewpoint of many public health officials, who have pointed out that these programs curb the spread of disease.