Indiana County Health Advocates Urge HIV Testing as State Begins Smallpox Vaccinations
Marion County, Ind., health advocates are stepping up HIV testing efforts with "greater urgency" as the state has begun smallpox vaccinations, which could cause serious reactions in people with compromised immune systems, the Indianapolis Star reports. Health experts recommend that transplant recipients, chemotherapy patients and people living with HIV/AIDS not receive the smallpox vaccine, which could cause flu-like symptoms, fever, blood infections, encephalitis or meningitis, among other reactions. Dr. Virginia Caine, director of the Marion County Health Department, said that "[i]f people don't know they are HIV-positive ... they could unknowingly cause themselves serious health problems with an inoculation," according to the Star. The department is planning to begin a smallpox public awareness campaign within the next two months, Caine said. In the meantime, Bridging the Gap, a faith-based group offering HIV/AIDS testing and counseling aimed "particularly" at African Americans and other groups that "don't receive services from traditional health institutions," is considering using videos and other educational tools to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS testing. Rev. Thomas Brown, the group's CEO, said, "Our whole thing is: Get tested." In addition, the Damien Center, which provides services for HIV/AIDS patients, is targeting family members and caregivers of its patients because, if someone who lives with an HIV/AIDS patient is inoculated for smallpox, they could be infectious for approximately three weeks following vaccination, the Star reports (Penner, Indianapolis Star, 2/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.