Tippecanoe County's First Comprehensive Resource for HIV/STDs Healthcare Service.

In 2015, a preventable HIV outbreak in Southern Indiana’s Scott County shed light on the state’s poor public health infrastructure (https://news.yale.edu/2018/09/13/new-study-finds-hiv-outbreak-indiana-co...). 8 years later, the same issue is coming to light again in Tippecanoe County, and just as quietly as it began in Scott County.


If you look at the Tippecanoe County Health Department’s webpage for STD services, you’ll find one of the most essential public health services in the Greater Lafayette area: the county’s HIV and STD walk-in clinic. This service is so essential because, unlike other STD and HIV healthcare providers across Greater Lafayette, the county’s walk-in clinic is the only place where residents can get walk-in, rapid STD testing services for free. This decreases the barrier of access to vital health services particularly for residents who are low-income, without health insurance, and/or at higher risk of transmission than the general population.


What you won’t find out on the county’s STD Clinic page, however, is that one of the most vital services that this program offers – rapid HIV testing – has been unavailable for over 6 weeks.


The lack of updated information on the county’s website is certainly an urgent issue that local officials could easily (and should quickly) address. The lack of services, however, speaks to a larger issue at the state level. Tippecanoe County’s HIV testing services are now unavailable because of a breakdown in the state’s program that provided subsidized test kits, and state officials remain unresponsive to the county’s requests for more information. This has left thousands of county residents at real risk of HIV transmission, opening the door for another preventable outbreak in a county 8 times larger than Scott County.


To combat this potential public health crisis in our community, a group of activists have come together to create Tippecanoe County’s first comprehensive information resource for local HIV and other STD healthcare services. For years, Greater Lafayette residents have had to confront serious barriers of access when seeking out STD services, including outdated or even nonexistent provider contact information. On top of this, the cultural stigma and lack of education around STDs – HIV in particular – create additional challenges even for residents who have found local care providers beyond the County’s walk-in clinic. Other providers in the area can charge a high premium for services, require insurance, or require prospective patients to book appointments weeks in advance. On top of this, some other providers aren’t even aware of the services that they provide, leading to awkward and uncomfortable interactions during appointments.


HIV Pathways seeks to address these barriers by providing detailed information about every HIV and STD care provider in Tippecanoe County, all in the same place. This will help each resident identify the best care provider based on their needs and preferences. Additionally, the activists at HIV Pathways hope to use this resource as the starting point for the larger effort to address the limited care options locally and statewide. This means keeping officials at the local and state level accountable to the threat of public health crises in our community. It also means educating our community, making our neighbors aware of how sexual healthcare is a vital component to a robust, comprehensive system of public health in Tippecanoe County.

To become involved with the effort to end the threat of another HIV outbreak, join HIV Pathways for their soft launch event at Pride Lafayette Community Center in downtown Lafayette on March 25th from 6-8pm. Bring your stories, your frustrations, and your motivation to increase access to vital healthcare services in our local community.



Nathan McBurnett