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SAMHSA News - November/December 2004, Volume 12, Number 6

From the Administrator: HIV/AIDS: A New Effort Offers Hope

While 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 communities.

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 the exception.

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.
Administrator, SAMHSA

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