Scott County

Louis Arevalo holds his Truvada pills at his home in Los Angeles, California on July 17, 2015. The drug Truvada, used to halt HIV infection, has been shown to be over 90 percent effective when used correctly.
Heidi de Marco / Kaiser Health News

An analysis released Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides further links between syringe services programs and preventing HIV. 


Viral Maps Show Exactly How An HIV Outbreak Spread

Jan 24, 2018

Epidemiologists traditionally have depended on what people say to discover how disease spreads. But in investigating Indiana's recent HIV outbreak, the CDC tracked what the virus says — by looking at its DNA.


Seth Herald / for Side Effects Public Media

On a recent morning in downtown Tippecanoe County Indiana, a standing-room-only crowd showed up for a county commissioners meeting. The issue at hand? Renewing the county’s syringe exchange program.


Barbara Brosher / WTIU

Health officials in Indiana's Scott County--the epicenter of Indiana's HIV outbreak--aren’t confident a recent move by the FDA to pull a powerful painkiller from market will have an effect on addiction in the historically drug-ravaged county.

This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

Sitting on a dresser in the back bedroom of a house in Austin, Ind., is the bottom of a soda can. A woman places a sliver of a pill, a powerful prescription opioid called Opana, on the jagged half-can. She begins to heat the pill with a cigarette lighter, melting its hard white coating and turning it the color of whiskey.

Her name is Joy.

Seth Herald/Side Effects

Four days a week, public health nurse Brittany Combs drives her SUV around the small town of Austin, Indiana, handing out clean needles to injection drug users and talking to people about going to rehab.

It’s a task that can be rewarding—when one of her customers finally wants help to get off drugs—and a bit agonizing, because there’s often not a rehab bed ready for them.


This story is part of NPR's podcast Embedded, which digs deep into the stories behind the news.

In the spring of 2015, something was unfolding in Austin, Ind.

Seth Herald / Side Effects Public Media

Amid fears that providing free, clean needles would promote illegal drug use, Congress passed a law prohibiting the use of federal funds to support needle exchange programs in 1988. But at the end of last year, lawmakers effectively ended that ban.

What Have We Learned From The Indiana HIV Outbreak?

Oct 2, 2015
Scott County public health nurse Brittany Combs distributes clean syringes from the back of a van in June 2015
Seth Herald

When an outbreak of HIV among injection drug users was declared in rural Scott County, Indiana, in February, it made national headlines. HIV was supposed to be an urban problem, and AIDS had been in steady decline among IV drug users since the early 90s. 

Daniel Raymond, policy director at the national Harm Reduction Coalition, says the Scott County outbreak, which infected 181 people, was a “wake up call” for communities around the country who are dealing with rising rates of hepatitis C, ongoing prescription opioid addiction, and increasing abuse of heroin.

Seth Herald/Side Effects

This episode of Sick, a new podcast from Side Effects Public Media, tells the story of Kevin Polly, a man who has to leave his town behind in order to save his own life. 

In February, the Indiana State Department of Health announced an HIV outbreak in rural Scott County. Thirty people had tested positive just since December, and most of the cases were linked to injection drug abuse of a potent prescription opioid called Opana. Since then, the number of cases has grown to more than 170.

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