AIDS

Indiana state health officials say they’re working to transfer more responsibility to local officials dealing with the response to the HIV outbreak in the southeastern part of the state. Indiana State Health Commissioner Dr. Jerome Adams and Deputy State Health Commissioner Jennifer Walthall  outlined the transition and long-term sustainability efforts in a news conference Wednesday.

Adams said he wants to make it clear that the Indiana health department is not leaving Scott County, where 170 people have been newly-diagnosed with HIV since December.

“This is a transition to more local control, more local empowerment. But the state will remain partners with Scott County. We’ll continue to be involved with and go down to Scott County for the foreseeable future,” he said.

There are now 170 confirmed HIV cases related to the outbreak. Adam said that 86 percent of those with HIV also have Hepatitis C.

One of the state’s foremost HIV/AIDS public health officials has told a panel of state lawmakers Wednesday that the state’s health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act, Kynect, is helping patients who have the virus.

Despite gains in treating the virus, it still disproportionately affects African-Americans and Hispanics.

According to data from the Kentucky Department for Public Health, African-Americans make up 38 percent of newly diagnosed HIV cases despite representing only eight percent of the state population.

Kraig Humbaugh, senior deputy commissioner for the department, told members of the Joint Committee on Health and Welfare that those figures mirror a national trend. His only explanation for the difference lies in the risk factors listed by the data.

Experts who watch HIV and AIDS cases in Kentucky say the rate of infection may see a rise thanks to complacency and the rise of heroin abuse in the state.

In spite of ongoing education and prevention efforts, the rate of infection in the state has remained constant over the past decade in Kentucky.

Mark Royse, executive director of AVOL, told the Lexington Herald-Leader that the infection rate may be on the rise. AVOL serves HIV and AIDS patients in 72 Kentucky counties.

Royse says people believe the disease is a problem in poorer countries, but not the U.S.

He says as heroin use increases in the state, so too do infection problems that arise from sharing needles.