HealthDay News — With opioid abuse now linked to 142 cases of HIV in rural Indiana, U.S. health officials are alerting other states to watch for clusters of HIV and hepatitis C among injection drug users.
The Scott County epidemic is “a powerful reminder that people who inject drugs are at high risk for both HIV and hepatitis,” Jonathan Mermin, MD, MPH, director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said during a news conference.
The CDC health advisory is designed to alert state health departments to the hepatitis C epidemic and the possibility of current or future HIV outbreaks among people who inject drugs.
“We are asking states to take a look at their most recent data on HIV and hepatitis C as well as overdose deaths and admissions for drug treatment — and drug arrests — to help identify communities that could be at high risk for unrecognized clusters of hepatitis C and HIV infection,” he said.
As part of Indiana’s response to the outbreak, Gov. Mike Pence has issued an executive order allowing a 30-day needle exchange program. The program has been extended for another 30 days.
Also speaking at the news conference, Joan Duwve, MD, chief medical consultant to the Indiana State Department of Health, said nearly all of the HIV cases identified have been related to injections of oxymorphone (Opana).
Steps taken by the state health department include the launch of a public education and testing program. This is “a one-stop shop to provide services to the community, including HIV testing, registration for insurance coverage, and referral to addiction treatment services,” Duwve said.