As we observe World AIDS Day on December 1, we remember those we’ve lost to the disease, reflect on the progress we’ve made in treating patients, and resolve to end the HIV and AIDS epidemic. SAMHSA’s role in ending HIV is vitally important because the people we are charged with caring for – those with a mental or substance use disorder – are disproportionately affected by HIV.The good news is we have seen great success in treating HIV infection over the past 20 years. In fact, a 20-year old who is diagnosed today with HIV can have a near normal life expectancy if they take antiretroviral medication every day and maintain an undetectable level of virus in their blood.
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The 2017 Voice Awards focusing on military and veteran communities struck a chord with me. As a retired captain in the Navy Reserve and the spouse of a U.S. Marine, I know what life in this community is like. I understand the realities, complexities, joys and hardships. But most importantly, I know how resilient this community is. We truly find strength in each other.
At this year’s Voice Awards, I had the opportunity to honor an exemplary group of community champions and entertainment professionals. Through their work and personal stories of resilience, the Voice Awards honorees inspire hope through their efforts to increase understand of behavioral health issues, and make it easier for individuals and families to seek help.
Our nation has experienced a series of unprecedented disasters in recent weeks, including three major hurricanes and a horrific attack that occurred in Las Vegas last Sunday night. In the midst of these great dangers, we repeatedly observe heroism and courage as our fellow Americans provided care and assisted others to safety. We recognize and honor those who have been impacted directly, their families and friends, and the heroic first responders and good samaritans who risked their lives to save others. Our SAMHSA staff also have families who have been impacted. We mourn the loss of innocent lives and the terrible injuries sustained by many others.The pain and devastation of these experiences are felt by so many of us and our fellow citizens as we all seek to recover. We at SAMHSA
It is one thing to hear in the abstract that America suffers from a stubbornly high rate of suicide and suicide attempts. But when it hits home—as it did for me years ago when a young neighbor, struggling with serious mental illness, died from suicide—we realize we have to ask some tough questions.
What could we possibly do to stop someone from taking his or her life? What are we failing to do for our neighbors and family members struggling with substance abuse or serious mental illness? What can we do to address the fact that this problem is especially acute among those whom we owe the most, our veterans? How can we fail to see when a loved one or neighbor is struggling?