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More than 100 people in southeastern Indiana have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak linked to the sharing of intravenous needles, and officials said Friday they're trying to combat unfounded fears among drug users that they could be arrested if they take part in a needle-exchange program created to stem the spread of the virus.
The state's Joint Information Center said there had been 95 confirmed HIV cases and 11 preliminary positive cases tied to the outbreak. That's up from last week's 84 confirmed HIV cases and five preliminary positive cases. All the cases are tied to injections of opioids.
Indiana's largest-ever HIV outbreak has hit Scott County, a rural, economically-struggling area about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. Health officials say all of those infected either live in the county or have ties to it.
Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in the county March 26 that temporarily waived the state's ban on needle-exchange programs.
That program began last Saturday in Austin — a city of about 4,500 residents that's the epicenter of the outbreak, but as of Monday only four people had joined the needle-exchange. Those four had exchanged 300 used needles and received 168 new, clean ones in return.