A massive, drug-fueled outbreak of HIV took place last December in tiny Austin, Indiana, alarming public health officials and reaching the ears of then-Gov. Mike Pence. Experts urged him to declare a public health emergency and order a needle exchange program, which is otherwise illegal under state law. For three months and hundreds of viral infections, the governor said only that he was “praying about what to do.” Finally he called the county sheriff, who told him to get going on the needle exchange, and the next day Pence announced he would do so. Still, the kinder act seems to belong to this unnamed church, which opened itself to local criticism for “enabling addicts to stay addicted.” Since the program started and gained acceptance among the addicts, the HIV rate has dropped back down to normal, one or two cases a year. It turns out that half the young adults in town are hooked on synthetic opiates, and when the drug manufacturer changed the formula to prevent addicts from snorting it, they started shooting up instead – in a state where possessing one syringe without a prescription is a crime. So after they shot up themselves, they washed off the needle and passed it to the next person; in a month or two, hundreds of cases of HIV. (Aaron Borton/The New York Times)

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