BATESVILLE, IN (FOX19) - It's been months since the story about southeastern Indiana's HIV epidemic went national and now, the state is still trying to bounce back from what Governor Pence called 'the worst outbreak in state history.' The outbreak is stemming from the widespread heroin problem in the region.
On Thursday, FOX19 NOW spoke with a doctor in Batesville, Indiana who told us if users don't get tested for HIV soon, the problem is only going to get worse.
The heroin crisis in Indiana has caused an explosion of not only HIV cases but Hepatitis C cases in the area as well.
"We need to stop this vicious cycle," said Dr. David Welsh, a general surgeon in Batesville. "We need to get them help and there's help out there and the first step is getting them tested."
Earlier this year, dozens upon dozens of heroin-related HIV cases began popping up in southeastern Indiana. Now, the number of heroin-related Hepatitis C cases are snowballing, so much so that three counties have decided to partake in needle exchange programs which allow users to bring in their used, possibly contaminated needles and exchange them with sanitary needles.
"This needs to be a multi-prong approach to deal with the problem of mental health issues and addiction issues," Dr. Welsh explained. "The governor visited Scott County when the region was in the national spotlight for the widespread HIV outbreak and during that time, he pointed out that there needs to be in the multifaceted approach to solving the heroin problem."
Right now, Ripley County is still back and forth on whether or not to adopt the needle exchange program but some feel that the sooner, the better. Dr. Welsh says either way, people have to start getting tested for these deadly diseases.
"People with addition need to know that we are here for them. No one is going to judge them and if they need help, there are many departments and many people with whom they can speak to on this issue."
On Nov. 10th, the Ripley County Health Department will offer free Hepatitis C and HIV screenings at the health department in Versailles.