Dozens of HIV cases reported in southeast Indiana

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 25, 2015) -- It's a sign that drug use in Indiana has reached a boiling point. Five counties in the southeastern part of the state have nearly 30 confirmed cases of HIV. The main reason: IV drug use. The counties are Clark, Jackson, Perry, Scott and Washington.

Jennifer Walthall, Deputy Health Commissioner with the state health department, said this highlights an opiate epidemic that is present here in Indiana.

"This is just one of the dangerous outcomes of opiate abuse," she said.

There are 26 confirmed cases of HIV since mid-December in southeast Indiana. Four others have preliminarily tested positive.

"When we see a cluster of this number in a county base line low level, it gets everyone's attention," Walthall said.

Sharing needles used to deliver the drugs are being blamed for a majority of those cases, specifically the prescription drug Opana. Opana is a powerful painkiller containing Oxymorphone.

As the state health department investigates these cases, officials are trying to identify other people who may have been infected.

The Damien Center in Indianapolis, a non-profit dedicated to helping HIV patients, finds this outbreak adds urgency to their message.

"Getting tested is one of the most important things people can do to stem the tide of the number of HIV positives that we have here in Indiana," said Jeremy Turner, Director of Supportive Services for The Damien Center.

HIV testing is much easier than it used to be. The Damien Center does an oral test which involves run an oral swab on the top and bottom of your mouth. The swab is put in to a vile containing a solution and in 20 minutes you'll know.

"This is an everyone issue so if you have not been tested, if you don't know your status, get out there, take the test," Turner said. "It can save your life."

The health department says a couple of these cases are from sexual transmission, and doctors say never share needles and always have protected sex. If you want to get tested, you can click here for more information from The Damien center.