Few getting HIV test in county

One county health official is surprised by how few people have taken advantage of the weekly HIV testing clinics set up in Seymour.

Public Health Coordinator Lin Montgomery said only nine people showed up for free testing at a clinic conducted in late May and a second this month at the The Alley church and soup kitchen in Seymour.

She said she was expecting more individuals to be interested in finding out their HIV status, considering the outbreak of the virus in southeastern Indiana that reached 166 cases this past week.

“We don’t know if there’s a lack of interest or it’s the location, but we were expecting more,” Montgomery said.

The outbreak in southeastern Indiana includes Jackson County and has been linked to intravenous drug use, particularly the painkiller Opana. It centers on Scott County, just a few miles south of Crothersville.

Because of its location, the Jackson County Health Department began posting fliers around the county at the end of May to get the word out about the clinics. The first two were May 26 and June 2, and a third was conducted Tuesday. The last event is set for 3 to 6 p.m. next Tuesday.

Montgomery said if more people don’t show up at the next clinic, health officials will have to evaluate the program and may discontinue putting resources into that particular effort.

She also said she was hoping some of the towns on the outskirts of Jackson County would have contacted her to set up a clinic, but she has yet to be approached.

“With our proximity to Scott County and our current drug rates in Jackson County, there could be a lot more people at risk,” she said.

Since February, there have been eight new cases of HIV in Jackson County. That brings the number of people living with the virus that can lead to AIDS in the county to 50. In March, the health department confirmed more than 50 cases of hepatitis C in the area.

Montgomery said the nine recent HIV mouth swab tests from the clinics came back negative. She said a few attendees have requested a finger prick hepatitis C test, which also is offered free as part of the program.

She said people should at least get tested for the people around them if not for themselves.

“You could accidentally pass it on to your children or a new spouse,” she said.

Though everyone should know their status, particularly those who have shared needles during drug use should have an HIV test, she said. There is no cure for HIV, but with treatment, someone diagnosed with the virus can still lead a long, quality life, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hepatitis C is a liver infection that can be spread through blood and bodily fluids. Montgomery recommends people 50 or older who might have had risky behaviors at any point in their lifetimes should have a hepatitis C test.

She said those who don’t know that they have it may be putting others at risk and not even know it. For example, she said, by sharing razors.

“Hep C is treatable and can be cured, but you need to know for the people around you who you might be accidentally exposed to it,” she said.

The time it takes to have both tests done is about 30 minutes and includes a brief health behaviors assessment. Those being tested also will be asked to provide demographic information, but it’s confidential. A person’s name is not given, but each is assigned a number.

“And it doesn’t cost you a thing like when you go to the doctor or the hospital,” Montgomery said.

A One-Stop Shop has been set up at the Community Outreach Center in Austin to provide an array of services, including HIV testing, vaccinations against hepatitis A and B, job counseling and substance abuse referrals.

So far, there have been 994 visitors, according to a news release from the state.

So far, 182 people have participated in the needle-exchange program implemented in that county this year.

An estimated 23,633 needles have been collected through the center, and 24,117 were provided.

The hours at the center, which includes the needle-exchange program, have changed. It is now open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.

At a glance

The Jackson County Health Department will hold a free HIV testing clinic from 3 to 6 p.m. Tuesday at The Alley, 416 E. Second St., Seymour.