Trump Is Likely To Get Much, Much Worse. Here Are A Few Big Things To Watch For.
The next HIV epidemic in America is likely brewing in rural areas suffering under the nationwide opioid crisis, with many of the highest risk communities in deep red states that voted for President Donald Trump.
Federal and state health officials say they are unprepared for such an outbreak, and don’t have the programs or the funding to deal with a surge in HIV cases. And given how little screening for HIV there is in some rural counties, they worry it may have already begun.
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Scott County, Ind., was Ground Zero for an outbreak two years ago. Nearly 200 opioid users in poor, rural Austin became infected with HIV, primarily as a result of shooting up powerful prescription opioids with contaminated needles.
Health officials believe it’s a harbinger of things to come as opioid abuse — painkillers, heroin, fentanyl and other drugs — rages on.
“ I am very concerned about something like that happening again,” new Surgeon General Jerome Adams, who was Indiana’s health commissioner during the outbreak, told POLITICO. “It’s a tragedy and we don’t want that to happen in any other communities ."
" We are using what happened in Scott County as both a warning to folks but also an example of how to respond to an opioid epidemic, " he said.
Late last year, the CDC identified 220 specific counties at high risk of a spike in HIV infections tied to intravenous drug use. They point to worrisome trends that reinforces their concerns: the number of fatal overdoses, and the skyrocketing number of intravenous opioid users contracting hepatitis C. That’s another blood-borne infection spread through contaminated needles, and it’s “a canary in a coal mine for HIV,” said Alana Sharp, research policy associate at the Foundation for AIDS Research.
“The nightmare that wakes me up at 3 a.m. is a Scott County-level HIV outbreak happening here in Alaska,” said Jay Butler, director of the Division of Public Health in the state’s health department and the lead official tasked with responding to the opioid crisis.