Pence Could Have Reduced Indiana’s HIV Infections By 90% If He Had Acted Sooner
President Donald Trump said that Vice President Mike Pence "has a certain talent for this” when he announced that Pence would helm the government’s coronavirus response efforts.
But the decision — and comment — struck many as odd, given Pence’s track record dealing with Indiana’s HIV outbreak in 2015 as the state’s governor.
Scott Country, one of the state’s poorest, was hit hard, and “more than 200 infections were eventually attributed to the outbreak,” NPR reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined that opioid addiction and needle sharing was to blame, leading health experts to call for a needle exchange program to go into effect.
But Pence was opposed to such a move on moral grounds, saying at the time: "I don't believe that effective anti-drug policy involves handing out paraphernalia to drug users by government officials. I reject that."
Eventually Pence caved and signed off on the exchange, but only for Scott Country and not before the virus had infected numerous individuals.
The Yale School of Public Health found that the number of infections could have been reduced by 90 percent if Pence and the state had acted sooner, NPR noted.
"Our findings suggest that with earlier action the actual number of infections recorded in Scott County — 215 — might have been brought down to fewer than 56, if the state had acted in 2013, or to fewer than 10 infections, if they had responded to the... outbreak in 2010-2011," Yale associate professor of biostatistics Forrest Crawford said when the [study](https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanhiv/article/PIIS2352-3018(18%2930176-0/fulltext) was released.
This is one reason critics have argued that Pence is the wrong person for the job of overseeing the Trump administration’s coronavirus response.
"There was an outbreak of HIV in Indiana a few years ago because Governor Mike Pence was horrible on public health policy," Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) tweeted. "So no, I'm not relieved that Trump has him leading the coronavirus effort."