Health providers, public health leaders and other treatment professionals from around Indiana gathered in Indianapolis for the 2017 HIV/STD Update. The annual conference allows people working in and around the field of infectious disease to come together, hear from national and state leaders and shape strategy.
Medical director at the Bell Flower STD Clinic, Dr. Janet Arno, says the event can help keep the conversation updated.
“Education, educating yourself as to how HIV is transmitted, how commonly and how treatable if diagnosed, all those messages have to be out there,” says Arno.
This year the statewide gathering focused on issues like equity impacting care for patients in Indiana and prevention methods like needle exchange programs.
Director of the Indiana State Department Health HIV/STD Division, Dennis Stover praises a new state law allowing counties to set up their own exchanges.
“The science says it does not increase drug use it just keeps harm away from the people who have a disease,” Stover says. “Mental health is a disease, opiate addiction is a disease, so we really try and treat disease at the health department.”
Stover says the Scott County outbreak was an HIV crash course for Indiana.
“We’ve been very fortunate in our state to get on top of it because we’ve had the luxury, hate to say that, of an epidemic and that’s really educated us fast about how we serve people who are injecting drugs and potentially have HIV,” Stover says.
More than 12,000 people are infected with the HIV virus in Indiana. The state also recorded more than 7,000 cases of Hepatitis C in 2015.