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Can state funded drug and alcohol treatment professionals talk about sexual health?

March 27, 2011
by Douglas Braun-Harvey
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In July 2010 President Obama directed the Office of National AIDS Policy to develop a National HIV/AIDS Strategy. Ok, what does this have to do with drug and alcohol treatment in Maryland talking about sexual health? And why should I keep reading this post? Hang in there; it gets interesting.

President Obama writes: "To accomplish these goals, we must undertake a more coordinated national response to the epidemic. The Federal government can't do this alone, nor should it. Success will require the commitment of governments at all levels, businesses, faith communities, philanthropy, the scientific and medical communities, educational institutions, people living with HIV, and others." (White House Office of National AIDS Policy, 2010)

Kip Castner of Maryland's Infectious Disease and Environmental Health Administration (IDEHA) embodies the White House Strategy. Mr. Castner concluded that Maryland [with one of the highest per-capita rates of HIV transmission in the country] could only do better in the third decade of this epidemic by collaborating with drug and alcohol treatment professionals to talk about the sexual lives of men and women in treatment. He asked me to help him. Since 2006 Mr. Castner has been co-hosting sexual health education workshops with Maryland's Alcohol and Drug Abuse Administration (ADAA), to bring Sexual Health in Drug and Alcohol Treatment relapse prevention curriculum (Braun-Harvey, 2009) to Maryland. Mr. Castner is the first state government HIV health agency leader to actively integrate sex/drug-linked relapse prevention approaches to accomplish the complimentary goals of reducing HIV transmission and reduce sex/drug-linked relapse risk among recovering women and men.

This five year mission has resulted in the State of Maryland creating a team of nine trainers from the fields of drug and alcohol treatment, HIV prevention and/or sex education who will begin teaching Maryland Drug and Alcohol Treatment Programs to provide sexual health relapse prevention groups within existing addiction treatment programs.

The beauty of this intervention is that it is congruent with a central mission of the White House Policy on AIDS/HIV. "The Strategy should be used to refocus our existing efforts and deliver better results to the American people within current funding levels" (White House Office of National AIDS Policy, 2010) Mr. Caster has witnessed the dwindling dollars in state budgets. He is convinced that the collaborative sexual health in recovery relapse prevention intervention delivers better HIV prevention results by integrating the dual purpose of providing clients with evidence based sex/drug-linked relapse prevention skills that will also contribute to reducing HIV transmission. Give an addict in recovery sexual health tools to prevent sex/drug-linked relapse and it will likely decrease HIV transmission. It is a win-win-win. Do not increase costs with a new separate HIV program. Effectively utilize existing resources [drug and alcohol treatment programs already run many groups] through cross discipline collaboration. Decrease risk of HIV infection by improving drug and alcohol treatment outcomes among women and men with high sex/drug-linked patterns of addiction.

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Douglas Braun-Harvey

Sexual health author, trainer and psychotherapist

Douglas Braun-Harvey

www.dbhnow.com

Douglas Braun-Harvey, MFT, CGP, is a psychotherapist and certified sex therapist based on San...