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How HIV is Challenging Red State Politics

How HIV is Challenging Red State Politics


New trend in infections challenges Republican conventions.

The recent outbreak in Indiana has sounded alarm bells across the country but coping with this latest trend in HIV infections may be especially hard for red states, argues a recent feature over at Politico by Adam Wren, an Indiana-based reporter, who documented the political history of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the US with an eye towards the causes and effects of Republican resistance to public health initiatives like needle exchange programs.

The needle exchange programs are especially relevant, Wren points out, because HIV infections are increasingly among rural, poor whites who inject painkillers like Opana. In Indiana, needle exchanges are illegal, and were only allowed to help cope with the recent outbreak. Wren writes, 

As the largest HIV/AIDS outbreak in Indiana’s history roils this Hoosier hamlet, it reflects the changing face of the epidemic in the U.S., as a disease that once primarily afflicted gays and minorities in deep-blue cities rises in rural red states. This new evolution of HIV is also forcing a new generation of Republican policymakers to confront its orthodox opposition to remedies such as government-funded needle-exchange programs.

Over the past decade, the virus cascaded from urban cities like San Francisco, New York and Washington, D.C., into poor, rural swaths of red states in middle America—opening a new front in the national fight against the spread of HIV. “It started in the coastal states among middle-class white gay men, and then the epidemic evolved into affecting more and more minorities in the South,” says Carlos del Rio, an AIDS researcher at Emory University in Atlanta. “Obviously, now the epidemic is changed. Now, what we're seeing is it impacting the rural communities.”

In this Indiana burg, the virus is not spreading among networks of gay men, but in rapid, cluster-like fashion within jobless white families who inject prescription painkillers with dirty needles.

The whole article is fantastic and you should go read it all here

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