She became addicted to painkillers over a decade ago, when a car wreck left her with a broken back and doctors prescribed OxyContin during her recovery. Then came a new prescription opiate, Opana, easily obtained on the street and more potent when crushed, dissolved in water and injected. She did just that, many times a day, sometimes sharing needles with other addicts.This is a white, church-going community, in an overwhelmingly Republican county. But poverty and opiate addiction are both rife; when HIV somehow entered the community it spread quickly. I was interested to see that Republican officials, including governor Mike Pence, have changed their tune about needle exchange programs in the face of the AIDS crisis in Austin:
Last month, the thin, 45-year-old woman learned the unforgiving consequences. She tested positive for H.I.V., one of more than 140 cases in this socially conservative, largely rural region just north of the Kentucky border. Now a life long hobbled by addiction is, like so many others here, consumed by fear.
“If you would have asked me last year if I was for a needle exchange program, I would have said you’re nuts,” Ms. Combs said. “I thought, just like a lot of people do, that it’s enabling — that you’re just giving needles out and assisting them in their drug habit. But then I did the research on it, and there’s 28 years of research to prove that it actually works.”It's easy to take absolute stands back in the capital where everything seems black and white, but in the face of real people's lives rigid principles need to bend.