Holli Reynolds “didn’t even know what HIV was” when the news broke that 11 people in her tiny town had tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS. Neither did her classmates — a group of students who have always known HIV as a treatable chronic disease that rarely visits a place like rural southeastern Indiana.
So when the number of infections in Austin and surrounding Scott County jumped to more than 140 — the worst outbreak in Indiana’s history — rumors spread swiftly through the halls of Austin High School. Some that HIV spreads best on toilet seats and water fountains. Others, fueled by rival sports teams, that even the school’s tennis balls had become infected.
“I was like, ‘Well, we’re going to have to do something about it so everyone’s aware of what’s going on around them. Because you’re living in it,” Holli said.