The HIV outbreak that exploded in Scott County in 2015 could have been prevented, according to a new study from the Yale School of Public Health. Researchers hope it illustrates a valuable lesson for communities in the future.
The researchers wanted to know whether early intervention in Scott County would have changed the dynamics of the HIV and hepatitis C epidemic.
"Basically what we did is we created the outbreak in Scott County in simulation, in the computer, and then turned back time to see what would have happened if you had done things differently," says Yale School of Public Health Assistant Professor and study author Gregg Gonsalves.
They found that the outbreak could have been prevented if the state acted sooner.
More than 200 people contracted HIV during the outbreak. But Gonsalves says if Indiana officials started diagnosing folks in 2011, fewer than 10 people could have been infected.
He says there were people on the ground in Indiana who were aware of the risks early on, but the cries for help ended up "falling on deaf ears."
"We hope our study reaches ears of decision makers in Indiana counties and at the highest levels of Indiana state government," Gonsalves says. "But also Kentucky, Ohio and other states that are at risk of these outbreaks."
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, hundreds of counties across the country remain at risk for similar outbreaks, including many in Indiana.