Heroin contributing to new cases of HIV infections, putting strain on Tri-State organization

Heroin contributing to new cases of HIV infections, putting strain on Tri-State organization

EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - It's a real need in our community and it's a need that's continuing to grow.

With the number of people living with and contracting HIV and AIDS in the Tri-State on the rise, one local organization is feeling the strain.

Dennis Myers, who is one of only two certified HIV treatment specialists in Southern Indiana said there are three groups seeing a rise in infections -- women, teenagers, and the gay population.

He said many of the new cases of infections are due to drug use.

"A lot of it has to do with the heroin epidemic," said Myers, a local nurse practitioner.

Myers is on the front line when it comes to battling HIV and AIDS in the Tri-State.

He and many in the medical community will tell you, heroin is a nasty drug with nasty effects. Effects that are now leading to new cases of HIV infections.

"Heroin or any of the mind altering substances do just that," said Myers.  "They alter your sense of where you're at, who you're with, to the point you don't care who you're with or who your partners are."

Many of the users, Myers said, end up sharing needles or having sex with someone in exchange for money to buy heroin.

If that user then becomes infected, oftentimes Myers says, they don't have the money to pay for necessities, let alone the medication needed to treat the disease."One bottle of medicine of a minimum will cost you over $1,100 to $1,200 a month," said Myers.

"One bottle of medicine of a minimum will cost you over $1,100 to $1,200 a month," said Myers.

"Every year the need seems to grow and this year, from the start, we're seeing more requests for help," said Wally Paynter, the president of Tri-State Alliance.

Paynter helps oversee the AIDS Holiday Project.  A program that helps low-income families affected by HIV and AIDS, regardless of how they became infected, by providing the families with clothing, food, and gift cards.

A group of volunteers met this week to come up with a game plan to meet an increased need for that assistance this year.

Paynter said the reason more families need help isn't just because of new infections.

"With the improvement of medicine now people are living longer," said Paynter.  "So we have new people every year that have been infected and then we have people who have been around for a long time, who are going to stay around hopefully, thanks to the improvements of medicine.  So, the need for this project will increase every year."

The group is hosting several events to raise money to help those families in need.

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