Last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a report that identified 220 U.S. counties that were at high risk of a spike in HIV infections tied to intravenous drug use. They cited worrisome trends in the increasing numbers of fatal overdoses and intravenous contractions of hepatitis C. Many of the counties identified in the report are located in areas that voted heavily for President Donald Trump – namely Appalachian and Rust Belt communities in West Virginia, Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee.
Unfortunately, federal and state health officials appear to be unprepared for any such outbreak. They do not have the programs or funding to deal with a surge in HIV cases. In addition, many individuals living in these rural areas lack adequate screening to even detect the deadly disease.
Two years ago, Scott County, Indiana experienced an alarming outbreak, with nearly 200 opioid users in the town of Austin contracting HIV, primarily as a result of shooting up powerful opioids with contaminated needles. Health officials across the nation are fearful of another outbreak at any time.
“I expect we will likely see similar outbreaks of injection drug-related HIV, said Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in an interview with Politico. “There’s nothing particularly different about the Indiana community than other communities throughout the country.”