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Indiana Health Officials Look Ahead in Battle Against HIV, Hepatitis C

Creative Commons

Indiana state health officials say they're working to transfer more responsibility to local officials dealing with the response to the HIV outbreak in the southeastern part of the state. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall  outlined the transition and long-term sustainability efforts in a news conference Wednesday.

Adams said he wants to make it clear that the Indiana health department is not leaving Scott County, where 170 people have been newly-diagnosed with HIV since December.

"This is a transition to more local control, more local empowerment. But the state will remain partners with Scott County. We'll continue to be involved with and go down to Scott County for the foreseeable future," he said.

There are now 170 confirmed HIV cases related to the outbreak. Adam said that 86 percent of those with HIV also have Hepatitis C.

The Indiana State Health Department has goals to reduce community viral load, provide all services necessary to identify care for HIV positive individuals and high risk negatives, and continue "one stop shop" services once per week through coordination with the local health department.

Walthall said the first component in reaching these goals is to increase access through insurance coverage, which has primarily been done through Indiana's Medicaid expansion known as HIP 2.0.

She said the implementation of the needle exchange program, enhanced HIV testing, wound care, and the distribution of pre-exposure prophylaxis  and naloxone have also contributed to the State's effort to contain the spread of HIV.

Other components of the plan include: HIV clinical care, which includes anti-retroviral drugs, sustained medication adherence and making sure there is no gap in care for patients who are coming through the jail system; substance use and mental health services; and enhancing primary care services for underlying health issues.

"Overcoming barriers to all of these above components is built into the planning process and the main component of making this process work is that these services have to be located in Austin so patients can access them at the point where they need them and where they are relevant," she said.

To facilitate the response, ISDH has added one public health nurse to the Scott County health department, two new care coordinators, one disease investigation specialist, one full-time HIV and Hepatitis C tester and an additional jail nurse to provide clinical services.