Public health experts have announced that the HIV outbreak in southeastern Indiana have been linked to needle-sharing among intravenous drug addicts and has now listed 153 confirmed cases.

Austin, a small rural town in Indiana, has been an unlikely epicenter of the largest outbreak of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, in Indiana's medical history. The count has increased as of this Thursday from the official total of 150 positive cases initially reported last Tuesday.

Almost all of the incidents in Indiana's biggest-ever HIV outbreak have occurred in Scott County, approximately 30 miles north of Louisville, Kentucky. State health officials inform that the unfortunate event is mostly attributed to needle-sharing among IV substance abusers who shot a liquefied formula of the pain reliever Opana.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently issued a health advisory notifying states, doctors and health departments nationwide to be on the lookout for groups of hepatitis C and HIV among intravenous drug users and take necessary steps to prevent them following the drug-fueled outbreak in Indiana.

Republican Governor Mike Pence has approved a needle-exchange local program in Scott County to fight the outbreak. Almost 290 people are taking part in that exchange. So far, the program has dispersed 13,000 clean needles through an outreach center in Austin.

State health officials tell rural places everywhere to contain the raw components that led to Austin's disaster. Many struggle with doctor shortages, poverty and addiction, and they are delayed with urban regions in terms of HIV-related funding, awareness and services.

HIV is continuously growing in numerous rural locations. Some study exposes a high occurrence of HIV in some rural counties in the South, with more than half of the incidents outside of big metropolitan areas in South Carolina, North Carolina, Mississippi and Alabama, though no outbreak has reached the size of Indiana's. Idaho had two rural HIV clusters in 2008, with a total of 15 incidents linked to drugs and sex.

The latest CDC report revealed new cases of hepatitis C, driven by the same prescription pain reliever Opana abuse that initiated Indiana's HIV outbreak, being tripled in several states, such as West Virginia Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee from 2006 to 2012.

For the moment, the CDC encourages that all health care providers and health departments take precautions to stop, recognize and react to outbreaks. State officials from Indiana hope others can learn from their response, which includes introducing a one-stop shop with HIV testing, a temporary county-run needle exchange and substance abuse treatment referrals. A recently passed state law permits all counties here to arrange same needle exchanges if they could verify a hepatitis C or HIV epidemic occurrence.

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