In response to the HIV outbreak in Southeastern Indiana, AIDS United AmeriCorps members are there providing HIV testing and other key services in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health.
Southeastern Indiana, an area with few new HIV diagnoses annually, has confirmed more than 80 new cases this year, with more anticipated. This represents an explosive increase in new HIV diagnoses this year, moving Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to declare a public health emergency.
In response, AmeriCorps members serving in Indianapolis—coordinated locally by The Health Foundation of Greater Indianapolis (THFGI)—already trained in HIV prevention and testing, will be assisting local health departments throughout the Southeastern region of Indiana. “Testing sites are being set up at local businesses, doctors’ offices and clinics, and the demand for testing is exceeding the local capacity and individuals are being turned away. Testing is critical to knowing your status and protecting yourself and others. Our members can help meet this critical demand,“ said Jason Grisell, AmeriCorps city supervisor and program director at THFGI.
The outbreak in Indiana is unprecedented. It is striking a rural region that had never seen this number of new diagnoses before. As such, the communities do not currently have the infrastructure to provide culturally competent testing and linkage services on this scale. Officials believe the epidemic is driven by the use of contaminated needles or syringes by people who inject drugs and by condomless sex.
The AIDS United AmeriCorps program brings 54 young people from across the country together to address the HIV epidemic. Members receive extensive training in HIV testing and counseling, linkage to care, and harm reduction. Members serve in one of seven diverse cities where they tackle challenges unique to their communities and develop skills essential to ending the HIV epidemic.
“This is a clear example of AmeriCorps Members serving on the frontlines of the HIV epidemic, changing lives and making a difference,” said AIDS United President & CEO Michael Kaplan. “The AIDS United program has a 20-year history of engaging young people in the field and preparing them to join the next generation of public health leaders.”
Jessica Miller, a current member of the AIDS United AmeriCorps Team in Indianapolis said, “Serving our community, going where they need us most – that’s just part of being an AIDS United AmeriCorps Member. This is a community in desperate need of HIV testing and education. With our team we should—at minimum—be able to test 100 people a day. Our team looks forward to helping the Department of Health in any way we can.”
AIDS United AmeriCorps members have served in Indiana for 10 years, providing HIV testing, education and outreach. “We are proud of our members’ work and dedication to Indiana at this critical time. We know they are a crucial asset to the state’s response,” said Kaplan.