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Following a major HIV outbreak in rural Indiana in 2014/15 the CDC conducted a “Vulnerability Study” to identify other counties in the U.S. that had a likelihood of a similar outbreak.

Called “County-level Vulnerability to Rapid Dissemination of HIV/HCV Infection Among Persons who Inject Drugs”, this analysis identified 220 highly “vulnerable” counties. These are identified in green on the maps below.

This study made a direct connection between injection drug use and the spread of HIV and HCV (hepatitis C).

Samaritan Ministry has been exploring the overlap of the “Vulnerability” assessment and the areas identified as counties of persistent poverty, particularly as they exist in Appalachia. Our partner, Together for Hope Appalachia, has provided an excellent context for this discussion.

We see two maps (below) that that show an 90% overlap leading to the question of how we might address these issues together. What can we do?

1. Become aware of the Harm Reduction Services that are available for those members of the community who are injecting drugs.
2. Understand the full range of recovery services in your area that may include:
a. 12-Step Programs (AA, NA)
b. Faith-based 12 Step Programs (Celebrate Recovery)
c. Medication Assisted Treatment (MAT) (buprenorphine, methadone, and naltrexone)
3. Connect with local public health and non-profit groups that offer services. Many of these are not faith-based groups.
4. Consider providing HIV and HCV rapid point-of-care testing in your community as a complement to the services that you already offer.