HIV patients seek treatment and services in Indianapolis as outbreak spreads across state

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (July 6, 2015) - A third Indiana county could become the next to request a needle exchange. The Wayne County Health Director is moving closer to asking the State Health Department for help in dealing with a surge in Hepatitis C and HIV cases. As the outbreak continues to spread some newly diagnosed patients are seeking treatment and services in Indianapolis.

"The infrastructure to handle that type of epidemic is just not existent at this point and time that’s just not anyone’s fault, that’s how it is in rural Indiana particularly around HIV, so yes we’ve seen some folks come up," said Thomas Bartenbach, Executive Director of the Damien Center.

The Damien Center is the largest HIV service agency in the state and treats people from all over Indiana. Bartenbach said patients travel in search of access to healthcare, resources and funding. In his experience, people will also seek treatment outside their hometown to avoid any stigma associated with the disease.

Employees with the Damien Center and the City of Indianapolis traveled to Scott County last week. The controversial needle exchange program began in Scott County, considered the epicenter of the outbreak.

The employees talked with consultants about challenges in the affected area. One of the biggest concerns is access to housing. The City of Indianapolis receives funding to provide housing to people with AIDS. Anyone with HIV can go to any service provider to get assistance with rent support or other supplemental programs offered through HUD funds. Within the past month several people from Scott County have called the City of Indianapolis looking for services or a referral.

"So it’s more than just making that office appointment to the doctor, it’s really looking at the entire overall health of a person and without stable housing health outcomes are also going to be impacted," said Jeremy Turner, Director of Supportive Services with the Damien Center.

The Damien Center will open an HIV/AIDS clinic in late July.

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