Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Pence allowed HIV to spread while he prayed, as Indiana governor

The soon to be vice president of the US is a religious extremist of the highest order. Think of the most extreme fundamentalist christianity and he's probably even on the fringes of that. Why this stuff wasn't reported during the lead up to the election is surely a failure of media scrutiny.

He's so far out there that he was willing to let an HIV outbreak in Indiana last year go on for two months whilst he stood steadfast in his beliefs and prayed, instead of providing a clean needle exchange program. The fast outbreak it was, is rare now in western democracies which dealt long ago at the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in the 80's with any moral quandaries about needle exchanges. Indeed it's been one of the big responses to HIV in Australia since then.

But Pence was still believing, completely ignorantly and dogmatically, that distributing clean needles was encouraging drug use. Something that is absolutely false. What it does do is stop people from getting not only HIV but other things as well, like Hep C. As governor of a state in 2015 one would think education and facts would take precedence over religious dogmatic falsehoods, but Pence remained in the dark ages.

It took a monumental effort behind the scenes to finally get Pence to cave in in the face of a huge health crisis developing in the state. Two months worth.
In recent interviews, local, state and federal health officials said Mr. Pence initially held firm. So as they struggled to contain the spread of H.I.V., the officials embarked on a behind-the-scenes effort over several weeks to persuade him to change his mind, using political pressure, research and pleas for help from this remote, poor community. 

On March 23, more than two months after the outbreak was detected, Mr. Pence said he was going to go home and pray on it. He spoke to the sheriff the next night. 

Two days later, he issued an executive order allowing syringes to be distributed in Scott County. 

Tens of thousands of them were handed out over the following months. And the program, along with drug therapy and aggressive outreach, slowed the flood of new H.I.V. cases to a trickle. 

State Representative Ed Clere, a Republican who was among those pushing the governor to approve the needle exchange, said he was relieved when Mr. Pence finally did so. He also wished it had been done sooner. “It was disappointing that it took so much effort to bring the governor on board,” Mr. Clere said. 

But Dr. Jerome Adams, Mr. Pence’s health commissioner, said the governor needed certainty that he was doing the right thing. 

“The governor wanted to make sure if we went this route it was absolutely necessary,” Dr. Adams said. “I believe he was praying on it up until the final decision.” New York Times