Indiana

Indiana health officials say more than 100 people have tested positive for HIV in an outbreak of the virus among intravenous drug users in southeastern Indiana.

The state’s Joint Information Center said Friday that as of Thursday there had been 95 confirmed HIV cases and 11 preliminary positive cases tied to the outbreak.

All of the HIV cases have been linked to needle-sharing among intravenous drug users.

Scott County — about 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky — is the epicenter of Indiana’s largest-ever HIV outbreak.

Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in the county on March 26 that allowed the creation of a limited needle-exchange program that aims to stem the spread of the virus.

On the first day of its new HIV clinic, the Community Outreach Center in Austin, Ind., is quiet.

Rows of chairs line the lobby. Health care providers walk in and out of  doors that lead to private testing areas, treatment resources and other services. The makeshift center is dubbed a One- Stop Shop, sanctioned and overseen by the Indiana State Department of Health.

Map Evansville

An online tool with information about Evansville-area businesses and their attitudes towards LGBT customers and employees is looking to expand.

The Map Evansville website is the brainchild of University of Southern Indiana psychology professor Amie McKibban, who asks business owners to fill out a survey, with the results shared online.

McKibban says the recent controversy in the Hoosier State regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has led to a spike in the number of businesses that want to fill out the assessment.

“I think we jumped from 30 businesses to about 71 in a matter of two weeks," the USI professor said.

McKibban and a USI student are struggling to keep the website updated with the amount of new information being sent in.

McKibban is seeking private and corporate support that she says will be used to update the website’s current software and develop a mobile app that can be used by area residents and visitors to learn more about how businesses handle LGBT issues.

“So it’s really easy, if you’re out and about, or if you’re new to the area or visiting the area. You can download the app and find the restaurant you’re looking for, or perhaps a bakery you’re looking for, a clothing store, a place of worship—whatever you’re looking for,” McKibban said.

Proposal to Give Adoptees Access to Birth Records Stalls in Indiana Statehouse

Apr 7, 2015

Indiana lawmakers say a bill that would have given adoptees equal access to their birth records has stalled in the House and no further action will be taken this session.

The bill’s co-author, Republican Sen. Brent Steele, says the House Judiciary Committee has too many bills that still need to be considered this session and the measure has been bumped.

The bill would have made accessing birth records easier for those born between 1941 and 1994 since records during that era currently are sealed.

State and local health officials have begun a needle-exchange program in a southern Indiana county where an HIV outbreak among intravenous drug users has grown to nearly 90 cases.

Scott County’s needle-exchange program started Saturday morning under an emergency executive order signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence.

That 30-day order temporarily suspended Indiana’s ban on such programs, but only for the southern Indiana county about 30 miles north of Louisville.

The program is open only to Scott County residents through the Community Outreach Center in the city of Austin that’s at the epicenter of the epidemic. That region now has  84 confirmed HIV cases and five preliminary positive cases.

Each participant will initially receive enough needles for one week to help combat needle-sharing that’s caused the epidemic.

Indiana is launching a needle exchange program in Scott County to combat an outbreak of HIV related to intravenous drug use.

Disease intervention specialists from nearby counties and states, including Kentucky, have been called upon to assist.

Louisville is about 40 miles south of Scott County, and Kentucky officials are battling this state’s own issues with intravenous drug use—specifically, with a spike in heroin use.

But Kentucky health officials have not seen a surge in new HIV cases despite the Indiana outbreak, said Dr. Kraig Humbaugh, director of the division of epidemiology and health planning for Kentucky.

He said he expects Louisville physicians to see an increase in the number of people seeking treatment for HIV from Southern Indiana.

He said it’s too early to tell whether the Indiana HIV outbreak will also lead to an increase in Kentucky.

In 2013, there were 392 newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kentucky, according to the 2014 HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report.

Updated at 6:21 p.m. ET

Lawmakers in Indiana and Arkansas have approved changes to their respective "religious freedom" measures designed to answer critics who charged the laws were meant to discriminate against gays and lesbians by allowing businesses to refuse them service.

The amendments were passed by Legislatures in Indianapolis and Little Rock after a day of wrestling over the details of amendments to the measures.

Dr. William Cooke knew he wanted to practice medicine in a rural town. He’s been a physician in Austin, Indiana, for 10 years—and he’s the only physician in town.

“I went there specifically to bring access to care,” he said.

Austin is in  Scott County, which is at the center of national focus because of an HIV outbreak attributed to intravenous drug use.

To meet the crisis, Cooke is providing a much-needed free HIV clinic for the small city of about 4,300 people. So far, more than 80 people Scott County have tested positive for HIV since the end of the year.

On Tuesday, Cooke and his team at Foundations Family Medicine opened an HIV clinic in their existing office in Austin, about 40 miles north of Louisville.  They were joined by representatives from the Indiana State Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Indiana Family and Social Service Administration and local health departments.

On its first day, about 30 people stopped by the HIV clinic either for testing or to initiate HIV treatment, he said. All of the services and care were provided free of charge.

“The people of Austin deserve to have their own clinic to get treatment from and not require them to travel to Louisville or Indianapolis,” he said.

The culture wars are always percolating beneath the surface in presidential politics — until something or someone pushes them to the surface.

Indiana Governor: New Law 'Not About' Exclusion

Mar 30, 2015

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence defended the new state law that's garnered widespread criticism over concerns it could foster discrimination against gays and lesbians and said Sunday it wasn't a mistake to have enacted it.

Pence appeared on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" to discuss the measure he signed last week prohibiting state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.

Since the Republican governor signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana. Already, consumer review service Angie's List has said it will suspend a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.

Pence did not answer directly when asked at least six times whether under the law it would be legal for a merchant to refuse to serve gay customers. "This is not about discrimination, this is about empowering people to confront government overreach," he said. Asked again, he said, "Look, the issue here is still is tolerance a two-way street or not."

Sexual orientation is not covered under Indiana's civil rights law. Pence has said he "won't be pursuing that."

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