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129 HIV cases confirmed in Jackson and Scott Counties

AUSTIN, Ind. (WISH) — State health officials said Tuesday that the HIV outbreak has spread outside of Scott County, into neighboring Jackson County.

Between the two counties, there are now 135 total HIV positive cases (129 confirmed and six preliminary), including five confirmed in Jackson County.

“With the five cases in Jackson County, all of the contact tracing has been complete. So we feel that those cases have been isolated and contained,” State Deputy Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall said.

Walthall said officials are still trying to track down an estimated 130 people who could have been exposed to the virus from other patients.

Health workers are urging drug users to seek help at the Community Outreach Center in Austin. Health officials are calling the outreach center a “one stop shop” for people seeking help.

In addition to being tested for HIV, people can get immunizations for tetanus and hepatitis. They can also be connected with substance abuse treatment professionals.

Austin Police Chief Donald Spicer is also encouraging people to use the center.

“We want these people using these benefits,” Chief Spicer said. “There’s so much that can be done in this one building, and we want people to take advantage of that.”

The center is also where the needle exchange is located. One goal of the program is to provide clean needles for drug users to prevent the spread of HIV.

Governor Pence signed an emergency order last month that temporarily legalized the program. This week, he extended that order another 30 days.

“We take what we can and we run with it,” Scott County Health Department Nurse Brittany Combs said. Combs helps run the needle exchange.

“We’ll bust our butts for another 30 days and we’ll go from there,” said Combs.

At the outreach center, people can also get their driver’s license renewed, get a copy of their birth certificate, and get help finding a job from the Department of Workforce Development.