We need to talk about Mike Pence enabling the HIV outbreak in Indiana on World AIDS Day

It’s important that today, on World AIDS Day, we discuss Vice President-elect Mike Pence’s nasty history with HIV/AIDS during his time as governor of Indiana.

The Huffington Post published a piece this morning entitled, “Mike Pence’s Defining Moment As Governor? Enabling An HIV Outbreak,” in which writer Erin Schumaker recounted Pence’s role in literally creating a public health crisis.

For one thing, Pence was responsible for cutting Indiana’s spending on health when his bill to defund Planned Parenthood was passed by the House in 2011. Schumaker then writes that:

“Then in 2013, Pence’s first year as governor of Indiana, Scott County’s one Planned Parenthood closed in the wake of public health spending cuts. Since that particular Planned Parenthood was also the county’s only HIV testing center, there was no longer a place for the county’s 24,000 residents to get tested.

Nearly 20 percent of Scott County residents live below the poverty line. Injection drug use there is a major problem, increasing the risk of HIV outbreak.

Fast-forward to 2015. Local health officials began to report HIV cases linked to intravenous prescription opioid use in Scott County. Scott County residents were sharing needles to inject their opioids, and nobody was getting tested.

The situation quickly spiraled out of control. At the height of the outbreak, 20 new cases of HIV were being diagnosed each week, reaching a total of nearly 200 cases by the time the outbreak was finally under control.”

Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy
Photo credit: AP Photo/Michael Conroy

If that doesn’t horrify you enough, then Pence taking his time and literally dragging his feet to provide any kind of response or action definitely will:

“During that time, Pence dragged his feet. Although the outbreak was identified in late January of 2015, it took Pence until April of that year to allow a temporary needle exchange in Scott County. It was a big shift for the governor, who was morally opposed to needle exchanges and believed they promoted drug use.

This position is dead wrong, according to health experts.

“People think that if you give someone a syringe, it means they’re going to go out and inject drugs, and if don’t give them syringes, they won’t inject drugs,” Robert Childs, executive director of the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, told HuffPost in 2015.

“But the thing is that if you don’t give them syringes, they share them, and then people will start getting HIV and viral hepatitis C.”

And beyond humanitarian or public health reasons, opposing harm reduction isn’t fiscally sound policy. “These are extremely costly diseases, and there’s no reason to get them if people can get access to clean syringes — an incredibly cheap product,” Childs said.”

Related: Here’s what you need to know about Donald Trump’s and Mike Pence’s plans for the LGBTQ community

Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images
Photo credit: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

Pence’s rampantly anti-LGBTQ agenda is no secret, though it did go underreported during the election (as did LGBTQ issues in general), but this adds a whole new perspective to the story. And with a Health Secretary who believes that LGBTQ rights literally HARM a person’s health, the Trump administration looks to take us back dozens of steps in terms of progress. Schumaker says it best, ending the piece by saying “Do we really want to see Pence’s public health judgement replicated on the national stage? Our collective health may depend on that answer.”

h/t: The Huffington Post

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