Hickory County among 4 Ozarks counties combating risk of HIV outbreak

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There's a risk for an HIV outbreak in four counties you wouldn't expect, right here in the Ozarks.

They're rural, which is part of the problem.

One of those counties, Hickory, is hoping to get off the CDC's list. Scattered across the country on a CDC map are highlighted counties, all at risk of an HIV outbreak. One of those counties, HIckory County is working to keep that from happening.

"Our primary focus is on preventing an outbreak here in our county," said Sandi Nelson, a registered nurse with the Hickory County Health Department.

Nelson said a number of factors may play a part in higher HIV numbers.

"Social determinants in our county such as high unemployment rate, high rate of poverty, limited access to health care and little to no access to medical assisted treatment plans for people who use illicit drugs."

The health department does offer free screenings for HIV and can also answer any questions that anyone has about the disease.

Hickory isn't alone. Cedar, Ozark, and Wright counties made the list too.

Nelson hopes, as she stated time and again as we spoke with her, better education will help limit the risk.

"We've implemented a health education campaign and that focuses here and on our Facebook page," said Nelson. "And it's primarily focused on educating our community on the risk of HIV and the prevention of HIV and the spread of HIV"

You can find out more information from the Hickory County Health Department by calling them at (417) 745-2138, or by visiting their Facebook page.