Dr. Carrie Foote, and students from her School of Liberal Arts Sociology HIV and Society Class, welcomed Dr. William Cooke (Family Foundations Medicine) to IUPUI on November 11 ’21 where he shared his and the towns’ experiences, chronicled in his recently published book, Canary in the Coal Mine: A Forgotten Rural Town, a Hidden Epidemic, and a Lone Doctor Battling for the Life, Health, and Soul of the People, when there was a community outbreak of over 200 cases of HIV among people who inject drugs in 2015. This was followed by a panel Q&A of people with lived experiences from Austin, Indiana who were impacted by the HIV outbreak — Billy and Dana Snowden (H20 Church Co-Pastors) Jerrica Hall [Cooksey] (person living with HIV and peer recovery coach), Cole Boyt (person living with HIV and peer recovery coach).
The speakers shared their deeply tragic experiences, but also powerful and immensely moving outcomes of triumph, hope, and healing, with the opioid crisis and the HIV/Hepatitis C epidemics among people who inject drugs in their community. Against overwhelming odds entrenched in immense socioeconomic barriers and the stigma of drug use and HIV, the speakers showed us how perseverance, love, and compassion are key to effectively address substance use and HIV epidemics in their and similar rural communities across the US. Their testimonies and Dr. Cooke’s book are a major contribution that challenges us to see the humanness in everyone and inspires us to care and work to end the suffering caused by the opioid crisis!