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Kentucky Health Officials Monitoring HIV Outbreak in Indiana

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Indiana is launching a needle exchange program in Scott County to combat an outbreak of HIV related to intravenous drug use.

Disease intervention specialists from nearby counties and states, including Kentucky, have been called upon to assist.

Louisville is about 40 miles south of Scott County, and Kentucky officials are battling this state's own issues with intravenous drug use—specifically, with a spike in heroin use.

But Kentucky health officials have not seen a surge in new HIV cases despite the Indiana outbreak, said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the division of epidemiology and health planning for Kentucky.

He said he expects Louisville physicians to see an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for HIV from Southern Indiana.

He said it's too early to tell whether the Indiana HIV outbreak will also lead to an increase in Kentucky.

In 2013, there were 392 newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kentucky, according to the 2014 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report.

Health care providers and contractors in the Louisville Metro have been alerted to look for new HIV cases, especially among those with substance abuse problems, said Humbaugh.

“We have to continue to promote our prevention messages for reducing the risk of HIV,” Humbaugh said.

Humbaugh said the Indiana State Department of Health has asked Kentucky for assistance with investigating contacts.

The Indiana health department is working on launching a temporary needle exchange program to battle the HIV outbreak.

“We want to do it in a way that’s actually safe for the community and that people will actually come to. They’re not going to come to the middle of the town square and exchange needles,” said Dr. Jerome Adams, Indiana’s health commissioner.

Meanwhile, the Kentucky General Assembly last month OKed legislation allowing for needle exchanges in the state. Louisville and other local governments are working on launching such programs.