INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Indiana just got stronger in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The State Department of Health was awarded a record breaking grant to help HIV positive patients statewide.
The opioid epidemic and an increased number of newly diagnosed HIV cases helped the state's chances of landing the competitive grant. ISDH will receive $26 million as part of the Ryan White Supplemental Award.
"One the opioid epidemic in Scott county the HIV outbreak we had several years ago. We've managed that very well we showed that we had the experience to do that kind of stuff," ISDH HIV Services Program Manager, Mark Schwering said.
The team wrote a proposal to show how they would use the grant money. They ended up securing the largest award for HIV services in Indiana history.
"It has to be used for HIV positive patients. A big chunk of it is going to be used for substance abuse disorders in HIV positive patients. We'll use a lot of it for potentially housing, treatment, food in some cases, upgrade our case management system," Schwering said.
Non-profits, like the Damien Center, believe the money will help to drastically reduce new HIV cases.
"When people living with HIV are connected with healthcare and stay retained in care they experience a reduction in viral load and when we lower our community's viral load that means HIV is harder to transmit to other people," Damien Center Director of Development and Communication, Jeremy Turner said.
In 2016, more than 12,000 Hoosiers were living with HIV and there were more than 500 people newly diagnosed with HIV or AIDS. And places like the Damien Center say it's time to fight even harder.
"We have the tools now and ending aids is possible," Turner said.
HIV support agencies in the state can submit proposals to show why they should receive some of the money. The main focus will be in areas with the highest populations of HIV positive patients like Allen, Marion and Scott counties.