Facing a rapidly growing HIV outbreak in Scott County and other areas of southeastern Indiana, the Governor’s office said that Gov. Mike Pence will be declaring a public health disaster emergency on Thursday for Scott County.

Image/US Congress
Image/US Congress

Pence met with local officials and community members in Scott County Wednesday concerning the recent HIV outbreak, which has reached epidemic proportions. The latest numbers from Indiana health officials put the outbreak at 72 confirmed HIV cases and seven preliminary positive cases that have been reported since mid-December.

This number is nearly triple the case count the health department released one month ago. Scott County typically sees a handful of cases of HIV annually.

Authorities say the bulk of the cases are linked through injection drug abuse of the prescription drug, opana, a powerful opioid painkiller containing oxymorphone that is more potent than Oxycontin.

During a press conference Wednesday, Pence, who opposes needle exchanges as part of drug-control policy, said he is considering a needle-exchange program as part of a public health emergency. Currently, needle exchange programs are illegal in Indiana.