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St. Joseph County officials address opioid use and HIV prevention efforts

NOW: St. Joseph County officials address opioid use and HIV prevention efforts

SOUTH BEND, Ind – The St. Joseph County Health Board held a meeting Wednesday evening.

One of the board’s agenda items was discussing “harm reduction strategies” to reduce an HIV outbreak risk and its relationship to opioid use.

“As the opioid epidemic has warmed up in our community and we’re really beginning to tackle that it just makes common sense that we’re thinking about HIV outbreaks,” St. Joseph County Health Board member Dr. Jason Marker said.

The CDC ranks Starke County as the 70th most at risk county for an outbreak of HIV in which IV drug use is a major risk factor.

“When there’s a potential HIV outbreak situation every county wants to be prepared for that and one of the ways to think about that is how the county health department can be doing screening and surveillance,” Dr. Marker said.

St. Joseph County, Marshall County and Starke County make up the region in which health departments are beginning to collaborate to fight the potential problem.

Dr. Marker explained why the board and surrounding health departments are attacking this issue now.

“Indiana has a great case example in southern Indiana where the rates of IV drug use became directly related to an HIV outbreak in their small rural community and the rest of the counties in Indiana want to avoid that,” Dr. Marker said.

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