Rapid HIV Testing Initiative, Center for Substance Abuse Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

The American Psychological Association (APA) urges Congress to provide the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) an additional $4.8 million towards the Rapid HIV Testing Initiative aimed at training mental health service providers in rapid HIV testing, prevention counseling, and direct mental health services.

History

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) was awarded $4.8 million to implement a Rapid HIV Testing Initiative in 2005 to provide tool kits and training for eligible providers in rapid HIV testing, prevention counseling, and related data collection. The current program does not include funding for direct mental health services.    

Background

HIV/AIDS continues to be a domestic epidemic. Approximately 40,000 people are newly infected with HIV each year. Those at especially high risk include gay and bisexual men, injecting drug users and their sexual partners, young adults, women, and racial/ethnic minorities.

Many people with HIV/AIDS do not know they are infected. Each year, 25 to 30 percent of HIV-infected people who come to public clinics for HIV testing do not return a week later to receive their test results. An estimated 900,000 persons in the United States are living with HIV. Of these, 180,000 to 280,000 do not know they are infected.

Rapid HIV testing can decrease the number of people unaware of their HIV status. The rapid HIV test kit can provide results with 99.6 percent accuracy in as little as 20 minutes. Since the test can be conducted in many non-clinical settings, it can also allow for more targeted outreach to communities and persons at risk. Greater availability of the rapid HIV test is likely to increase overall HIV testing and decrease the number of people unaware that they are living with HIV.

Mental and behavioral health services are essential components of rapid HIV testing. Knowing one's HIV status is key to preventing the spread of HIV, accessing mental health counseling and receiving medical care. Mental and behavioral health services can help individuals who are infected with HIV cope with testing positive for HIV and develop the skills to prevent HIV transmission to others. For those not infected with HIV, mental and behavioral health services can provide the knowledge and skills needed to reduce their risk of acquiring HIV.

Recommendations

The American Psychological Association urges Congress to continue its support for the Rapid HIV Testing Initiative within the SAMHSA by doubling funding to $9.6 million for FY 2006.