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Former Surgeon General: All the ingredients exist for another HIV outbreak in Scott Co.

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Dr. Jerome Adams says he is concerned about the potential for another HIV outbreak in southeast Indiana now that Scott County has closed its needle exchange.

“The simple truth, from a purely scientific point of view, is that all the ingredients still exist in Scott County for us to have another very rapid and very large explosion of HIV,” said Adams, the former state health commissioner and U.S. Surgeon General.

Scott County’s needle exchange ceased operations Jan. 1 after the county commissioners voted last summer to close it. Adams attended a commissioners meeting when the exchange was discussed and praised Scott County’s program for keeping HIV cases low and connecting drug users to recovery services.

With the needle exchange closed, he says many drug users won’t be connected with those services, increasing the likelihood of new HIV cases and overdoses.

“There's still plenty of people misusing substances, more than ever before,” Adams said. “You take away those clean syringes and all the ingredients are there – there's a powder keg just waiting to be lit once again.”

Efforts are underway to start a privately run needle exchange in the county, but the timeline for when it would be approved and operational is uncertain.

Mitch Legan