Indiana's HIV outbreak examined on World AIDS Day

INDIANAPOLIS – As World AIDS Day is recognized around the globe today, the HIV epidemic that plagued parts of Indiana this year is highlighted here at home.

A panel discussion at Indiana University-Bloomington on Tuesday, Dec. 1, focuses on the outbreak, which was linked to the sharing of contaminated syringes and involved more than 180 cases. William Yarber, senior director of the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention at the school, said they’ll talk about what caused the epidemic and the challenges of trying to stem it.

“This presented a whole new type of situation that, in a lot of ways, is frightening,” he said, “and reminds us that under certain circumstances the AIDS problem can raise its head and require a lot of public-health agencies to collaborate.”

Those agencies included the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the state Board of Health and the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. Yarber said the outbreak exposed the vulnerabilities rural communities face in addressing a public health crisis and the need for state and federal support.

At one time, HIV/AIDS was the top health concern in the United States, Yarber said. He contended that it’s fallen off the radar because of newer, more effective drug treatments.

“But we do know that sexual minority communities, racial minority communities are disproportionally impacted by HIV/AIDS and remain still a serious health problem that can lead to morbidity as well as mortality,” he said.

According to the CDC, the nationwide prevalence of HIV infection among adults ages 18 to 59 remained nearly steady from 2007 to 2012. There are more than 1 million people living with HIV in America, and one out of five people with HIV is unaware he or she has the infection.

Tuesday’s event begins at 7 p.m. at the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union in Bloomington.

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