AUSTIN, Ind. — From the start of the HIV outbreak, health officials emphasized that nothing set Scott County apart from many other rural communities where opioid drug use had become an epidemic. This could happen anywhere, people were told.Many people had viewed HIV as a big-city disease, something that might afflict people in San Francisco or New York. But not in Austin, a small city of about 4,000 people 80 miles south of Indianapolis.Then, in February 2015, the first 30 cases of HIV were reported. By mid-March, the number had climbed to 55. State health officials, the governor and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were looking for answers. Few public health crises have unfolded so rapidly.Now, a year later, the outbreak is at 190 cases. But the sickness runs deeper.Poverty envelops this city. Empty storefronts dot the main street. Many homes are boarded up or have makeshift tarps instead of windows. Less than 10 percent of Austin’s residents hold a college degree. One out of 5 residents lives below the poverty level, more than 1.5 times the rate in Indiana.Drug use here is still rampant. Some users shoot up alongside their children or even their children’s children. In the winter, as many… Read full this story
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