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May 21, 2015 8:30 AM, EDT

HIV Cases Along I-65 in Indiana Have Slowed Dramatically, Officials Say

The rate of new HIV cases in southern Indiana has slowed, permitting state health officials to move into a prevention phase.

“As of May 18, we have identified 158 cases of HIV in the Scott County area,” State Health Commissioner Jerome Adams said in a statement. “With the rate of new cases having dramatically slowed, I hope that the peak is finally close. We do have more testing to do and more high-risk individuals to contact, but we are moving forward at a good pace.”

State health officials last month asked the Indiana Motor Truck Association and about 15 truck stops along the Interstate 65 corridor between Louisville, Kentucky, and Indianapolis for help in getting out the word of the outbreak traced back to the tiny rural community of Austin.

“The first wave of numbers I think we are relatively close to completion of the epidemic,” Jennifer Walthall, the state’s deputy health commissioner, told Transport Topics. “The most important part for us moving forward is connecting all the new HIV positive citizens to quality care for not only HIV, but for many — about 80% — Hepatitis C and the underlying issue of addiction.”

Although nearly all of the individuals who have tested positive for HIV were believed to have contracted the disease by injecting drugs with shared needles, state health officials regarded truckers as one of the groups at risk of contracting the disease.

“The educational campaign is still in development,” Walthall said. “We’ve been working in collaboration at many of the truck stops. They have some feedback and modifications, and we’re working to make sure the campaign is as effective as possible.”