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IU Bloomington to Host Panel Discussion for World AIDS Day

The Indiana University School of Public Health-Bloomington will observe World AIDS Day with a panel discussion about this year’s HIV outbreak in southern Indiana.

The panel, sponsored by the school and its Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, will take place at 7 p.m. Dec. 1 at the Whittenberger Auditorium in the Indiana Memorial Union.

The focus of the panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, will center on the dramatic increase in the spread of HIV infection in southern Indiana’s Scott County earlier this year. In an area that historically saw fewer than five cases of HIV annually, the outbreak grew to more than 180 cases and is directly linked the sharing of contaminated syringes.

This panel will discuss the reasons behind the outbreak and the challenges facing those who have been trying to stop it.

The panel will discuss the cooperative efforts by the School of Public Health-Bloomington, the Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention, and agencies and stakeholders across the state and nation.

“This panel brings together people from all aspects of the outbreak response: our colleagues from the state who led the response effort; the Centers for Disease Control, who provided field epidemiologists and counsel; our local AIDS community partners, who left their current jobs to assist in Scott County; and Scott County’s public health leadership,” said Dr. Beth Meyerson, co-director of Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention. “The event will provide students, faculty, researchers, policy makers and the general public with a chance to hear stories from the front lines of the outbreak and to engage in conversation about the way forward.”

The panel includes Meyerson, as well as:

  • Emily Brinegar, licensed social worker and prevention coordinator/support specialist at IU Community Health Positive Link.
  • Brittany Combs, public health nurse for the Scott County Health Department.
  • Amy Hays, care coordinator at IU Community Health Positive Link.
  • Jennifer Walthall, deputy health commissioner for the Indiana State Department of Health.
  • Paul Weidle, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiology field team lead.

Dr. William Yarber, Rural Center for AIDS/STD Prevention senior director, will serve as moderator.

Scott County is believed to be representative of rural America and could be an example of the vulnerabilities hiding in other small towns all over the country.

An estimated 34 million people are living with HIV around the world. More than 35 million people have died from HIV, which makes it one of the deadliest viruses in history. World AIDS Day, held on the first of December every year, is an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV and become educated about the virus. Recent trends have indicated that far from being eliminated, the spread of HIV is hitting all too close to home.