HIV spike continues to grow

More HIV testing services are being offered in Jackson County as the number of cases tied to a recent spike here and in four other southern Indiana counties continues to grow.

Since state health officials announced the outbreak Wednesday, the number of confirmed cases has risen to 27 along with 10 preliminary HIV-positive cases.

Other counties included in the outbreak area are Clark, Perry, Scott and Washington, and fewer than five cases typically are reported in this area each year, according to the Jackson County Health Department.

The exact number of cases is not being released due to privacy issues.

The outbreak has been tied to the injection drug abuse of the prescription drug Opana, with some individuals also reporting sexual intercourse as a possible mode of transmission. Opana is a powerful opioid painkiller containing oxymorphone.

Many of these cases also have tested positive for hepatitis C, according to the Jackson County Health Department.

Dr. Jennifer Walthall, deputy state health commissioner, called the HIV outbreak complex and fast-moving. She said it requires a comprehensive response.

“There are many moving parts to address, including addiction, barriers to care such as lack of transportation and homelessness, as well as prostitution and the close proximity to Interstate 65,” she said.

Three of the five counties — Jackson, Scott and Clark — are located along the interstate that cuts the state in half.

“We are exploring every possible response mechanism and are working closely with local health officials and others to get people the treatment and care they need and to stop the spread,” Walthall said.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus and can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Friday, Positive Link will offer free HIV testing from 3 to 6 p.m. at Walgreens, 319 E. Tipton St., Seymour. Positive Link is a program of IU Health Bloomington Hospital Community Health, which offers free HIV prevention and testing services and direct services for those infected with HIV.

The test involves a mouth swab with results in 20 minutes. If the test shows a preliminary positive, then health officials will do a confirmatory test, which will involve a blood draw to be sent to a lab for results.

That can take up to two weeks, according to Amanda Roach, marketing and public relations manager for Indiana University Health.

There also are testing opportunities at Schneck Medical Center in Seymour and Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky at its Seymour Health Center, 357 Tanger Blvd., Suite 302.

At Schneck, one must have a doctor’s referral before an appointment can be made, said Stephanie Furlow, the hospital’s spokeswoman.

At Planned Parenthood, which is state-funded, only returning patients or those making an initial appointment for services are eligible to be tested.

Tammy Lieber, director of communications for Planned Parenthood, said the test is done by mouth swab, and results take just 20 to 40 minutes.

The agency also has an office in Columbus that is not state-funded; therefore, anyone can walk in and be tested. That office is at 3200 Sycamore Court, Suite 2C.

Positive Link also will offer free testing at the Walgreens store in North Vernon from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. People also can go to Bartholomew County Health Department or the Clark County Health Department. The Jackson County Health Department does not offer HIV testing.

Some pharmacies offer over-the-counter home HIV tests.

Due to the outbreak, disease intervention specialists will interview each newly identified HIV-positive individual to obtain information about needle sharing and sex partners and to recommend care coordination services, medical care and HIV prevention information, according to the news release.

Indiana sees about 500 new HIV cases annually; and as of early 2013, nearly 11,000 residents had either HIV or AIDS, according to state statistics.

State health officials recommend everyone know their HIV status, and the best way is to get tested by a health care professional.

Hoosiers in the southeastern portion of the state, especially individuals who have engaged in high-risk behavior such as needle sharing and unprotected sex, are advised to get tested and then retested after about two to three months because HIV can take up to three months to appear in a person’s system, according to the news release.

To help reduce risk of infection, avoid:

Injection drug use;

Sharing or reusing needles;

Engaging in unprotected sex; and

Engaging in sex with commercial sex workers.

For HIV testing locations and information about HIV Care Coordination, call ISDH HIV Services Hotline at 866-588-4948.

At a glance

Positive Link out of Bloomington will be at Walgreens in Seymour to offer free HIV testing from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday.

For information or to schedule an appointment, call 812-353-9150.  

At a glance

Appointments can be made at Planned Parenthood clinic online at plannedparenthood.org or by calling 800-230-7526.