Indiana counties’ syringe-exchange programs provide condoms

(WISH Photo, file)
(WISH Photo, file)

KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — Several Indiana counties are distributing free condoms as part of its syringe-exchange programs to reduce the spread of HIV and hepatitis C.

The Indiana State Department of Health declared a public health emergency in Lawrence County earlier this month, the Kokomo Tribune reported. The Indiana Recovery Alliance, a Bloomington-based nonprofit that operates Monroe County’s needle-exchange program, will provide the same services in Lawrence County, including distributing free condoms.

Lawrence County public health nurse Sherry Lawson said by handing out condoms the county would be following best practices for harm reduction. Seven other Indiana counties that have been approved to operate syringe-exchange programs also do so.

“I feel like if we’re trying to protect these folks against anything we can protect them against, then providing condoms is a good option,” Lawson said.

President and CEO of the Indiana Family Health Council Kristin Adams said while distributing condoms is one of the easiest ways to prevent the spread of disease, a lack of funding jeopardize counties’ ability to get them to the people who need them.

The state doesn’t fund county syringe-exchange programs, and it doesn’t offer health departments any money or programs to buy or receive condoms.

To the fill the gap Adams said the Indiana Family Health Council has tried to use some of its federal grant money to buy and distribute condoms to health departments, college campuses and other social service agencies.

So far the Indiana Family Health Council has given free condoms to six of the eight counties that are approved to run a needle exchange program but the non-profit may be forced to end its condom-distribution program due to possible cuts to its grant funding, Adams said.