"So the question is not whether we know what to do, but whether we will do it."
President Barack Obama,
November 10, 2011, AIDS.gov presented a video on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy at the 2011 United States Conference on AIDS in Chicago, IL.
In reading about HIV, HIV and mental illness and HIV, and mental illness and substance abuse, I came across this article in, "JAIDS: Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes
The Impact of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Factors on HIV Prevention and Treatment." The opening sentence reads, "The convergence of HIV, substance abuse (SA), and mental illness (MI) represents a distinctive challenge to health care providers, policy makers, and researchers."
If this convergence is challenging to health care providers, policy makers and researchers, it's no wonder that as an HIV positive and mental health consumer I'm struggling with compound stigma, dating and isolation due to discrimination within my own community. I'm thankful for finding this article tonight, not because my issues will vanish for me, but because it helps make sense of why I've been in a fog that won't go away since being diagnosed in 1996. I have been hopping from one short-term treatment to the next, each tied to a new funding source. And each source is fragmented its like 26 weeks on substance abuse, 26 weeks on newly diagnosed HIV, 26 weeks on bipolar disorder.
It's not that I'm not thankful for the series of short-term treatments; without them I might have actually played out the almost weekly suicidal fantasies and thoughts I had. I'm one of the lucky ones.
Deep breath, as I'm still reading the article, which now says, "Efforts to provide services to people with HIV/SA/MI, or even to study them, must do so in an environment complicated by a legacy of service fragmentation resulting from institutions designed to treat psychiatric illness, SA, or HIV but not real-world combinations of all three."
Is there hope on the horizon? I'm happy to say yes and I'm fortunate and blessed because maybe this road I'm traveling as a consumer advocate for mental health and HIV and with substance abuse means I have found myself in the right spot at the right time.
In its 2011 Annual Report, the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center mentions that "we have applied to NYS for a license to provide more intensive mental health services and have received initial approval for that application. We anticipate starting this program in the latter part of 2012."
I don't have concrete information as to why now, but 2011 was the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic, and in 2011 at the United States Conference on AIDS in Chicago, IL the National HIV/AIDS Strategy was put into place by President Obama.
Also "In September 2010, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) announced $42.6 million in new grants over a three-year period to provide behavioral health services in communities most impacted by HIV/AIDS. Funding for the “12 Cities” program will be used to develop and expand networks of primary care, HIV/AIDS and behavioral health service providers serving racial and ethnic minorities, including LGBT individuals, with or at high risk for HIV/AIDS."
Of these 12 cities, New York City was one. Time will tell more and more, and when there is a vaccine to prevent HIV I predict we will see a radical shift in all our AIDS service organizations as they begin providing intensive mental health services.