HIV Outbreaks Spur Calls for Lifting Needle Exchange Ban
The drug scene in this country is changing and not for the better. Injection drug users are on the rise, just not where most expected. What was once contained and limited to larger, populated areas is now spreading to the most rural backdrops. Due to this surge, HIV outbreaks have been sprouting in what some would have considered, unlikely regions. Take for example a small agricultural county in Indiana.
This small county, bordering Kentucky, averaged just a few cases of HIV per year in the past. In the first half of this year, however, 169 new cases were reported – a drastic change. To add to that, 80% of those infected with HIV have been infected with Hepatitis C as well.
Experts long feared that this shift in demographic would bring about these tragic consequences. Drug abuse is now common among rural, predominantly white areas. Another alarming statistic shows that the number of male and female abusers are about equal. Along with injecting drugs comes the increased risk of spreading HIV. While proven methods in the past have effectively faced these challenges, one such method has a federal funding ban on it. Needle exchange programs worked well in the past to ensure that those who used needles would not pass them on to other users. A filled prescription for a needle could be refilled once the used needle was returned. It is a simple concept, but it worked and worked well.
The issue at hand is that there is currently a ban on federal funding for these programs. Without funding, the programs cease to run. Anyone with needle prescriptions can simply toss or pass along the used item. It is precisely these actions that have health officials worried that more HIV outbreaks in small communities will be making headlines. The call now is for a lift on this ban in hopes of stemming the changing tide.
As for the small Indiana community, the state governor has allowed funds to go into the needle exchange program for that county. The rest of the state will not be receiving the same benefits. The funding for each county is conditional: that is, based on need.