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Indiana’s Opioid-Related HIV Cases

The public health emergency continues in rural Indiana’s Scott County. This part of the state—which typically only sees a handful of new HIV diagnoses every year—has identified 162 new HIV cases since December.

How did this happen?  Are we not testing, educating are we not doing everything we can do as a nation to ensure that HIV is eradicated?  Are we not doing everything we can to protect our children and youth?  Do we not have the best treatment available…?

The truth of the matter is we are  setting the stage for  a public health nightmare that will touch the lives of many who thought they were insulated from such an atrocity!  Let me be blunt, what we will soon see is middle class, upper middle class white suburban youth addicted, infected, and dead if communities do not get honest with their selves.  The Indiana AIDS outbreak occurred because it was not on the radar of HIV surveillance.  The conditions in NC have many similarities to the conditions in Indiana. NC is a state that is a mix of rural and urban areas. Many of our counties have much higher rates of overdose than the national average, our HIV rate is higher than the national average.  We know from our own data collection that HCV rates are overwhelming in the IDU community.  The high unemployment rates mixed with the ban on syringe access, the limited education we give our young people, the poverty and hopelessness all contribute to the brewing storm.

Go to any treatment center in America and 90% of  consumers are there for heroin, pain pills, opiates.  The other drugs they use take a back seat to OPIATES!  Young people as young as 13 and 14 are getting involved with a drug that requires an enormous amount of respect!  For the most part teenagers feel invisible and suffer from the belief that they will be the exception to the rule rather …..Now, you take the angry, rebellious teenager who is not afraid of death (because many don’t realize just how easy it is to overdose on heroin and die– over 60% of heroin users admit to overdosing at least 1x many more than 1x.

The Indiana AIDS outbreak will happen again and again here in the good ol’ south!  Why, you ask?

  1. Conservative attitudes that prevent honest and effective drug prevention / education to be taught … Young people need to know how to protect themselves from HIV- HCV- and other illnesses that you can get from engaging in behaviors we feel uncomfortable talking to our kids about—–HAVE YOU SEEN WHAT THEY ARE WATCHING ON TV OR THE INTERNET????COME ON!!!

  2. Our single minded approach to drug addiction treatment- which is stuck in abstinence based 12 step programming. We know that these programs have around a 5% effectiveness rate—  WE ARE IGNORING SCIENCE!!!  not only do we not use the treatments that work on a large enough scale, we stigmatize the treatment so that it is not uncommon for me to see people struggling, and literally just about dying trying to get off drugs “the right way” (they are talking about abstinence based 12 step models) because using suboxone and methadone, those are just crutches..     THIS MESSAGE IS KILLING PEOPLE

  3. Even if people continue to use —M.A.T (medically assisted treatment) is very effective in helping consumers have increased control of their decisions around drug use.

  4. NEWSFLASH- Methadone, suboxone, naltrexelone,…these are the interventions that show the highest rates of success….Why are we allowing them to be stigmatized….(people that go to NA or AA and share they are on these drugs are shamed, told they are not “Clean”, told they are just substituting one drug for another……This is outrageous!!!!!

  5. Hepatitis C is already endemic in the IDU population and injection drug users are in great need of services, yet active drug users are told over and over again that they cannot be helped until they are off drugs.  Drug users, especially young drug users have no intention of quitting all drugs, or quitting at all!  Harm Reduction Services are so important.  IF we did not offer services in Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem there would be no where for drug users that did not want to stop using to get any services.

  6. Shooting up requires multiple steps and there are so many opportunities for contamination – In Indiana many people were shooting up pain pills, opana etc.  these pills have abuse deterrents in them that are supposed to prevent people from breaking them down and shooting them….but what really happens is that users have figured out different methods for removing the deterrent but these processes create even more opportunities for contamination.                                                                                                                                               ANY Positive Change:   We have services for drug users that are designed to respect the outcomes you choose.  We will not judge you,  we will not try and force you to do things our way, we will help you reach YOUR goals.  Please call try something new…336-669-5543

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