Center to host free test for HIV

Eastside Community Center in Columbus will offer free HIV and hepatitis C testing next month in response to concerns about the volume of cases being reported.

The community center is partnering with Columbus’ Thrive Alliance and Positive Link, IU Health Bloomington Hospital’s HIV prevention services agency, said Priscilla Scalf, Eastside director.

The testing is being offered because of the increase in the number of HIV cases across the southern half of the state, as well as in Bartholomew County, Scalf said.

Confidential testing will be offered from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 14 at the center at 421 McClure Road, Scalf said.

Same-day results will be offered for HIV tests. The hepatitis C results will take about a week to complete.

The southern Indiana HIV outbreak grew to 79 confirmed cases as of Wednesday, along with seven preliminary positive cases, according to the Indiana State Department of Health.

LifeCare Testing Clinic, 1950 Doctors Park Drive, Suite B, reported its first lab-confirmed HIV case in Columbus last week, clinic spokeswoman Maria Westbrook said.

State health workers are meeting with the patient this week to determine if there is any connection to the increasing number of cases being reported in Scott, Clark, Jackson, Washington and Perry counties.

Most of those who were infected had shared needles while injecting the painkiller Opana, a prescription drug that is considered more potent than Oxycontin, state health officials said. Testing for hepatitis C is being offered because it also is spread through using shared needles, according to state health officials.

However, not all the cases are linked to drug abuse and shared needles, as some are being linked to unprotected sex, according to the state health department.

State health officials said some of those infected are prostitutes, while others are inmates in local jails or prisons.

Those infected range in age from 20 to 56, but most are in their mid-30s.

On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Pence met with Scott County officials about the HIV outbreak, declaring the number of cases in that county to be an epidemic.

Pence issued a public health disaster emergency Thursday for Scott County, while a medical team from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention arrived there to help with follow-up contacts with people who have tested positive for HIV.

“If we don’t get it solved down here in Scott County, it’s going to spread to surrounding counties, it’s going to spread to the entire state, and we’re going to see this throughout the state and the country,” Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams said at a Scott County news conference.

The state health department is launching a regional public awareness campaign called “You Are Not Alone” focusing on drug treatment, infection prevention, safe sex, needle disposal and HIV testing and treatment.

The three-month campaign will include social media ads, billboards along Interstate 65, which runs through southern Indiana, and in print media.

State health department statistics show that 59 Bartholomew County residents were living with HIV or AIDS as of Dec. 31, a number that increased by five last year.

Indiana sees about 500 new HIV cases annually, and statewide 11,000 residents had either HIV or AIDS, according to the state health department.

Where to get tested

What: HIV and hepatitis C testing and counseling

When: 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 14

Where: Eastside Community Center, 421 McClure Road

How much: Free

For more information: Call 812-376-7840

Other options for testing

HIV and hepatitis C testing is offered at the Bartholomew County Health Department and LifeCare Testing, both in Columbus.

To reach the health department, call 812-379-1555.

The health department offers free HIV testing by appointment. The department asks that anyone wanting to be tested for hepatitis C call the office to make an appointment where options can be explained.

LifeCare Testing: 812-418-3230

LifeCare offers a free rapid HIV test that has results in 15 minutes. If the result is positive, it is considered a preliminary positive and must be confirmed by a lab blood test. The lab fee is estimated at $22 and is covered my many insurance companies or Medicaid and can be adjusted based on ability to pay.

LifeCare also offers testing for hepatitis C, with a lab fee of about $60 that covers testing for A, B and C versions of the disease. The lab fee can be adjusted based on ability to pay.

For HIV testing locations and questions about HIV care, call the Indiana State Department of Health HIV Services Hotline at 866-588-4948.

Reduce your risk of infection

To reduce the risk of HIV infection, avoid:

  • Injection drug use
  • Sharing or reusing needles
  • Engaging in unprotected sex
  • Engaging in sex with commercial sex workers

For more information about the link between HIV and drug abuse, visit the National Institute on Drug Abuse at http://hiv.drugabuse.gov/index.html

Individuals needing help with substance abuse may call the 24-hour addition hotline at 800-662-4357.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.