|HIV cases on rise in Scott, other counties, thanks to drug use, lack of protection|
At least 26 people in Scott County have now been diagnosed as HIV positive, most cases possibly due to the habit of sharing hypodermic needles while using drugs, according to a recent release from the Indiana State Department of Health (INSDH).
Such a declaration means that Scott County is in the midst of five counties cited in an INSDH report advising HIV is on the rise. Other counties included in the warning are Clark, Jackson, Perry and Washington. Austin has had the most cases identified in recent weeks.
Testing since mid-December revealed the increase, with most believed to have become infected through shared needles while injecting Opana, a powerful controlled substance abused by some drug users.
“Dirty” needles – and unprotected sexual contact - can spread HIV, an abbreviation for the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV can cause a worse condition, acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS. AIDS in humans is a condition in which a progressive failure of the immune system occurs, allowing life-threatening infections and cancers to occur and thrive. Most of the people affected in Scott and other counties are known drug users. A couple others are described as “commercial sex workers.” All were diagnosed at the Clark County STD Center, which can be reached at 1-800-828-5624, advised County Health Nurse Brittany Combs. The center is where all of the county’s testing is conducted and where all callers who need testing are being referred.
The center also identified four “preliminary positive” HIV cases from Scott County. “Contact investigations are being conducted in these cases,” stated Combs. Such efforts can lead health professionals to other people who may be unaware of exposure to HIV.
Many are aware of the hazards of HIV but may not know some of the symptoms they can experience after exposure. Unfortunately, those who do have symptoms may blame them on flu, some describing this primary HIV infection, also known as Acute Retroviral Syndrome (ARS) as “the worst case of flu ever.”
ARS symptoms include fever, swollen glands, Sore throat, rash, fatigue, muscle and joint aches and pains and headaches. These can last from a few days to a few weeks. However, some people don’t have any symptoms after exposure.
Health professionals stress the only way to be sure is to get tested. “If you’ve had unprotected sex or have shared needles to inject drugs, get tested as soon as possible,” one professional advised. If people have any questions about HIV, they can call the Scott County Health Department at 812-752-8455 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. The Clark County test site’s number is 1-800-828-5624. Persons do not have to be referred to the center to receive help.