Just days after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence declared a public health emergency in his state due to an HIV outbreak, it was revealed the county at the center of the explosion has been without a testing center since early 2013, reports the Huffington Post.
The clinic in Scott County and four other Planned Parenthood facilities in the state, all of which provided HIV testing and information, have shuttered since 2011, in large part due to funding cuts to the state’s public health infrastructure, the report says.
The cuts came amid a searing national and local campaign by conservatives to dismantle the health care provider in a crusade against abortions. And ironically, the Scott County clinic did not offer abortion services, notes the report.
Now, the state is scrambling to erect pop-up clinics to combat an unprecedented HIV epidemic that stems largely from the intravenous use of the prescription painkiller Opana.
The Huffington Post reports:
The fact that Scott County was “without a testing facility until a few weeks ago is a glaring example of the kind of public health crisis that results when prevention and testing are left unfunded,” said Patti Stauffer, Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky’s vice president for public policy.
Indiana’s GOP-led state legislature was one of the first to declare war against Planned Parenthood in 2011, when it passed a bill that defunded the family planning provider because some of its clinics offer abortion services. A federal judge later blocked that law from going into effect, but the state has continued to slash various sources of funding to Planned Parenthood at a time when the cost of operating a medical facility continues to rise.
In 2005, Planned Parenthood of Indiana received a total of $3.3 million in funding from government contracts and grants. By 2014, that funding had dropped to $1.9 million. Five of Planned Parenthood’s smaller clinics in the state — the health centers in Scottsburg, Madison, Richmond, Bedford and Warsaw — were unable to keep up with the growing technology costs that were necessary to remain competitive as a medical provider. All five clinics that were forced to close had offered HIV testing. None had offered abortions.
Gov. Pence declared the public health emergency in the county on Thursday, and authorized a short-term needle-exchange program in hopes of stopping the transmission of the virus through contaminated needles. More than 80 people in Scott County have tested positive for HIV since December. The outbreak is said to be the worst in Indiana’s history.
It’s too bad that poor residents were allegedly denied health care as a result of partisan politics. We hope that the state can stem the tide of the outbreak by once again providing residents with ongoing and accessible medical treatment and drug counseling.