The discovery of over 200 new HIV diagnoses in Indiana’s small, rural Scott County over the course of 2015 was a major wake up call for many about the dangers of ignoring the HIV prevention needs of people who inject drugs. The massive number of new cases in Scott County coupled with the ongoing epidemic of injection drug use in rural America significantly changed the political landscape around HIV prevention in the past few years,leading the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to identify 220 other counties that could be vulnerable to similar HIV “outbreaks.”
The situation in Scott County led to substantive policy change in December of 2015 when the Republican-led Congress quietly reversed their stance on a federal ban barring funding from being spent on syringe access programs (SAPs) – a change that had long been sought by HIV prevention advocates. How do we holistically address the needs of these communities beyond SAPs? How do we best involve affected communities within these responses?