Expanded HIV testing important offering

The Bartholomew County Health Department took an appropriate step in expanding its HIV testing hours. That was in response to a surge in human immunodeficiency virus cases in southern Indiana that’s linked to injection drug abuse.

Local health officials increased from two to five the number of days per week the department will offer testing for HIV. People engaging in risky behaviors such as needle sharing and unprotected sex have risked the possibility of having contracted the virus.

State health officials announced the outbreak Feb. 25, and it’s growing. The most recent count had 27 confirmed cases and 10 preliminary HIV positive cases. The Indiana Department of Health said all are linked to injection drug abuse of Opana, a prescription opioid painkiller more potent than Oxycontin. Some HIV cases also are linked to sexual transmission.

The HIV outbreak should be high on the county’s radar considering it’s already dealing with an opioid problem with heroin abuse — which has resulted in overdoses and deaths.

With the needle sharing of Opana linked to the rise in HIV cases, fears of heroin needle sharing causing the same problem would be justified.

All Hoosiers should know their HIV status, state health officials said. Getting tested by a health care professional is the best way to know your status.

Thanks to the county health department’s expanded HIV testing, residents have a greater opportunity to know their status.

Where to get tested

HIV testing options in Bartholomew County include:

•Bartholomew County Health Department, 1971 State St., Columbus. Call 812-379-1555, ext. 1.

•LifeCare Testing Clinic, 1950 Doctors Park Drive, Suite B, Columbus. Patients can get a free rapid HIV test that provides results in 15 minutes. However, a positive result must be confirmed by a laboratory blood test, which costs $22. Call 812-418-3230, email info@lifecaretestingclinic.com or go online at lifecaretestingclinic.com.

For statewide HIV testing locations and information about HIV Care Coordination, call the hotline at 866-588-4948.