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Scott County HIV Outbreak Sparks Surge in Drug Treatment Patients

But treatment center cautions rehab is grueling, often unsuccessful

Drug treatment programs are seeing a spike in enrollment from Scott County as an HIV outbreak continues to creep through the region.

Lifespring Mental Health Services CEO Terry Stawar says Lifespring is seeing about 12 patients a week from the Austin area, four times the pace before the HIV outbreak. But he cautions it often takes five or six tries to kick a drug habit. He says 40-percent of the Scott County patients have attempted treatment before.

Two more cases of HIV have been diagnosed in Scott County, bringing the total for the year to 155.

State epidemiologist Pam Pontones says the unprecedented HIV outbreak has spread with extra speed because the disease has spread almost exclusively through intravenous drug use. Normally, drug use accounts for about three-percent of all cases. Pontones says the virus spreads more quickly through injection.

326 people have made use of an emergency needle exchange program. Legislators have authorized similar programs in other counties with high HIV or hepatitis rates if county commissioners and state and local health officials all approve.

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