HIV/AIDS, increasingly, has become a treatable
illness, it remains incurable and life threatening.
Prevention and early intervention remain critical.
The availability of a new test that yields rapid results
presents a unique opportunity for early detection and
treatment of the virus. That's why the U.S. Department
of Health and Human Services has made rapid HIV testing—coupled
with prevention, counseling, and referral—a priority
in countering this disease.
SAMHSA is overseeing the Department's $4.8 million
Rapid HIV Testing Initiative—a promising effort
that allows the Agency to assist people in immediate
and tangible ways.
The Initiative will reach many people at high risk
for acquiring HIV, particularly individuals with a mental
or addictive disorder. In addition to offering a quick
and easy test, service providers participating in this
Initiative will offer counseling and referral to treatment
and supportive care services.
As part of this process, we're educating America by
demonstrating that mental illnesses, substance abuse,
and HIV are chronic, long-term illnesses that can be
treated successfully. We are teaching that, with appropriate
supportive services, people with these illnesses can
lead long, productive, and fulfilling lives in our Nation's
We're also focusing attention on the interrelationships
among mental illnesses, substance use, and HIV/AIDS.
Today, we know that co-occurring disorders—addictive,
mental, and physical—are more the expectation than
We are also combating the misunderstanding and stigma
associated with these illnesses. Too many people avoid
seeking diagnosis and therefore do not benefit from treatment
and other services that could help them.
As with all SAMHSA efforts, this Initiative reflects
a commitment to the Nation's health. The rapid HIV test,
combined with the proper interventions, has the potential
to transform the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS—and
ultimately, reduce the incidence of the disease.
Charles G. Curie, M.A., A.C.S.W.