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A New Outlook

Will Dean

A New Outlook

For Desert Healthcare District and Foundation Director of Communications and Marketing Will Dean, it’s all about showing up.

Words by Daniel Hirsch • Photos by Lani Garfield 

As seen in Issue 4 of DAP Health Magazine

Will Dean knows how to deliver a message to people. “It’s about meeting people where they are, whether that’s in their actual workplace, like the farm fields, or in their churches,” he says. 

Meeting People Where They Are

As director of communications and marketing for the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, Dean’s job is to raise awareness about the efforts of the District’s partners to equitably advance health and wellness throughout the Coachella Valley.

For him, meeting people where they are takes many forms. It’s in standard communications work: relaunching a website, drafting press releases, updating social media. Or it could mean promoting farmside mobile clinics to ensure agricultural workers have access to vaccines, as Dean did for the District throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Communication as Key to Healthcare Access

As Dean explains, health care access relies on communication — about what people needing care understand about their resources, and about what providers are able to hear from prospective patients. “Not everyone has the same opportunity to access care. There are barriers that people face, such as language barriers or lack of transportation,” he says. “Listening to people and their stories is so important to understanding why they may not seek care.”

Advocating for Equal Access

Dean’s ability to communicate on behalf of health care campaigns has benefited DAP Health. Since 1999, the nonprofit has received $3.5 million from the District’s grant program. This funding has supported everything from efforts to computerize patient records to running an HIV-testing van parked outside of gay bars.

According to former District CEO Dr. Conrado Bárzaga, Dean effectively advocates for equal access to health care because he’s committed to hearing directly from the people that benefit from it.

“He goes to the homeless encampment where we’re serving those community members… It really enhances the work, to tell the stories from a very truthful perspective,” says Bárzaga. “He’s someone who is always looking to do what’s right, to communicate in a very sensitive manner the importance of bringing equity to the distribution of health care.”

From Journalism to Healthcare Advocacy

Dean’s sensitivity for reaching people comes from a decades-long career as a journalist. It may also come from the acute understanding of the experience of not always being the recipient of the stories and media that one might want or need.

Growing up in the 1970s in Hardinsburg, Kentucky — a rural county seat with a population of roughly 2,000 people — Dean was a voracious magazine reader. He’d read anything he could grab, from Reader’s Digest to TV Guide. But as a young Black person who knew he was gay from an early age, Dean would rarely see himself reflected in the media he consumed. Copies of Jet and Ebony provided what Dean describes as “a variety of examples of Black excellence and possibility,” but finding Black LGBTQ+ stories proved harder.

The eye for good writing and deep appreciation for meaningful representation stayed with Dean throughout his journalism career, starting in his 20s at the Park City Daily News in Bowling Green, Kentucky and working for papers like the Savannah Morning News. 

After a mid-career Knight Fellowship at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Dean landed in Palm Springs for a community editor role at Gannett daily The Desert Sun. There, he fulfilled a dream he’d had ever since he was that magazine-devouring boy: running a magazine all his own. From 2012 to 2018, he edited Desert Outlook, a monthly LGBTQ+ publication published by his employer.

“It came about because our then executive editor, Greg Burton, called all the editors into a meeting and asked us if we thought an LGBTQ+ publication would work here,” says Dean. “And, if I recall correctly, everyone said no — except me.”

Starting in 2012, Dean ran Desert Outlook with a passionate meticulousness, leading a small team of writers and designers. The monthly printed stories on same-sex marriage and the migration of HIV patients to the desert. Dean fondly remembers interviewing actor Cheyenne Jackson, who gave Dean an equally memorable muscle-bound hug. It was a public-facing role that had Dean attending events multiple times a week— restaurant openings, political gatherings, theatre premieres, and more. 

“He had high standards, and he was very conscientious about basically everything he did,” says Michael Jortner, an Outlook contributor and longtime friend of Dean. “He would be on every photo shoot to make sure it was as close to what he was looking for. And it was the same with the writers.” 

Transition to Healthcare Leadership

After Outlook published its last issue in May 2018, Dean didn’t stop to rest. He started work at the District that June. He filled a position that has made great use of his journalism skills and editorial eye, overseeing the publication of the District’s first history book — telling the story of how the foundation formed in 1948 to build Palm Springs’ first hospital, only to grow to grant $80 million to local health care nonprofits. Working with Riverside University Health System, Dean is poised to launch a public health campaign about harm reduction related to fentanyl overdosing.

The demands of Desert Outlook and the District pushed Dean to take a “social hibernation” from the arts, culture, and community events that have so defined his time in Palm Springs. (Dean has also been on the boards of various organizations, such as Dezart Performs and Brothers of the Desert.) It’s a slow-down that Dean says he’s newly emerging from. Recently, he’s worked on his own writing projects, such as contributing a profile of jazz drummer Daniel “Big Black” Ray to Palm Springs Life.

Embracing Diversity and Inclusion

Dean is also launching a new, roving social club called The Mix Palm Springs, which focuses on fostering and celebrating diversity in social spaces. A recent summer camp-themed event at resto bar Reforma featured the lawn game cornhole (AKA bean bag toss) and s’mores. “It’s highly curated at the moment,” says Dean of this new venture, which is currently open by invitation only. “But that’s also part of ensuring that people know it’s a safe, welcoming space.”

Attention to detail. Respecting people’s needs. Showing up. All in a day’s work for Will Dean.

DAP Health Announces Date For Its 2023 H …

DAP Health Announces Date For Its 2023 Health Equity Walk

 

The popular event, formerly known as the Desert AIDS Walk, kicks off at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 28

at Ruth Hardy Park in Palm Springs.

 

Consistent with DAP Health’s almost 40-year history of protecting and expanding access to health care, the organization has renamed its perennially popular Desert AIDS Walk the DAP Health Equity Walk as an affirmation of its mission to remove all barriers to care.

Presented by Desert Care Network, the event will take place throughout Palm Springs — kicking off from Ruth Hardy Park at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 28 — and will feature a Health & Wellness Village sponsored by Walgreens.

The pet- and kid-friendly affair is an opportunity for all residents across the Coachella Valley to walk out loud so that every member of the community — regardless of who or where they are — can achieve optimal health in a more just system.

“When we were founded as Desert AIDS Project almost 40 years ago, there were no HIV medications, advocacy was in its infancy, and the prognosis for those sickened by the disease was inevitably grim,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Four decades later, our work to end HIV continues through prevention and education, but our measurable successes have enabled us to also create a unique patient-centered model of care we can replicate in other marginalized communities, removing barriers for those who need it most. Honoring our past to create health equity is part of our history and how we plan to continue making history for decades to come.”

With the recent acquisition of the Borrego Health system, a total of more than 100,000 patients of all populations, genders, and ages — from newborns to seniors — at a total of 25 Southern California clinics located within 240 rural and urban zip codes from the Salton Sea to San Diego now fall under DAP Health’s protective umbrella of care.

“Because DAP Health now works on behalf of such a large swath of individuals, it makes sense to broaden our walk’s mission to reflect the totality of our patient population,” continues Brinkman. “While compassionate, state-of-the-art HIV care and prevention is in our organization’s DNA, and will forever be at the heart of our work, the truth is that today, our lifesaving efforts are carried out on behalf of everyone in disciplines that include primary care, OB-GYN, pediatrics, gender affirmation, mental health, harm reduction, and recovery, to name but seven. The walk, one of our biggest annual fundraisers, is now representative of the incredible diversity of services we offer.”

Participants and supporters of the 2023 DAP Health Equity Walk are being asked to do the following:

Walk Out Loud to End HIV. HIV/AIDS care, testing, and prevention have always been at the heart of DAP Health’s mission, and that simple fact will never change. The organization’s clinical expertise has been hard-won from its vast experience, and is what has enabled it to expand as it has. 

Walk Out Loud For LGBTQ+ Care. Every stripe of the rainbow, including those seeking gender-affirming care, have continually found a safe haven here, free of shame and stigma.

Walk Out Loud For Women’s Health. The recent acquisition of the Borrego Health system has brought a multitude of clinics that serve women (and their children) into the DAP Health fold. The nonprofit is very proud to now boast robust OB-GYN and pediatric services, among many others.

Walk Out Loud to End Epidemics. This has forever been DAP Health’s superpower, with the organization swiftly and successfully addressing a number of community health crises. For instance, its on-campus COVID-19 clinic was the first to open in the Coachella Valley, and the agency successfully lobbied the powers that be for the community’s fair share of the much-needed mpox vaccine.

Walk Out Loud For Mental Health. Thanks to the 2022 opening of the Marc Byrd Behavioral Health Clinic — which offers in-person and telehealth individual psychotherapy, as well as medication management — this long-held DAP Health dream is now a reality.  

Walk Out Loud to Care For Everyone. Health equity means all people have the same access to health care, no matter what social determinants of health negatively impact them. At DAP Health, everyone is welcome, with no one ever turned away due to their lack of health insurance.

Of note, the Ryan White Western Regions Provider Meeting — which brings together nearly 50 peers who specialize in HIV care, and who receive the Ryan White Western Regions Provider Meeting — which brings together nearly 50 peers who specialize in HIV care, and who receive Ryan White Part C and Part D funding — will take place October 26 and 27 in Palm Springs. At the event, these like-minded colleagues, from Denver to Hawaii, will share best practices to improve the quality of care and services they provide to their patients.

healthequitywalk.org

DAP Health Makes Bid to Protect Health C …

DAP Health Makes Bid to Protect Health Care Access for 120,000 People

In line with its mission — and in tandem with longtime community allies Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare — the Palm Springs nonprofit leads a life-saving alliance to acquire Borrego Health. 

 

PALM SPRINGS, February 5, 2023 – Palm Springs-based Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) DAP Health made a bid to acquire Borrego Health, which on September 12, 2022, filed for bankruptcy and solicited potential acquisitors to assimilate its clinics and assets. The proposed investment would be based on total enterprise value, assuming a debt-free, cash-free transaction.    

At its height, Borrego Health served 275,000 patients annually across its various sites throughout San Diego and Riverside counties. Today, the system continues to cater to an estimated 120,000 individuals a year. Through their shared commitment to care for all members of their communities, DAP Health, Innercare, and Neighborhood Healthcare formed an alliance and are joining forces to continue operating Borrego Health — with DAP Health acting as the acquirer in order to protect patient access to integrated outpatient services.   

“Our approach ensures patients who currently rely on Borrego Health for high-quality, culturally competent care would not experience an interruption in their service,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “With distinct service lines and expertise, all three alliance members are uniquely positioned to care for Borrego Health’s patients. Building upon longstanding relationships, and through strong leadership collaboration, our alliance has the experience, operational expertise, depth of management, and strategic foresight to be successful in this endeavor.”    

The winning bidder will be notified this week. In hopes that the Borrego Health board of directors selects its bid proposal, the alliance has developed a comprehensive three-year operational plan that would allow for stabilization, optimization, and ultimately, growth of the current Borrego Health system.    

The initial steps would focus on the stabilization of the clinics, with a substantial investment of managerial time and material investment in the system. Employees at DAP Health, Innercare, and Neighborhood Healthcare would not see a change in their employment terms, benefits, or compensation resulting from this process. Rather, the alliance intends to make significant investments to retain the current staff of Borrego Health and to reinforce Borrego Health teams by addressing staffing shortages while bringing the current system up to a higher standard of staffing ratios and workflows.   

“Speaking for the remaining few founders and myself, it’s very rewarding to observe how this current outreach resonates with the agency’s nearly 40-year heritage,” says inaugural Desert AIDS Project Executive Director George Sonsel. “Through the decades, DAP Health has consistently demonstrated its perpetual readiness to share its expertise and professional guidance in support of the community’s needs.”   

About the Alliance  

Founded in 1984 as Desert AIDS Project, DAP Health was the first community-based clinic dedicated to serving low-income patients with HIV/AIDS. In 2012, it was designated as an FQHC Look-Alike, in 2015 became a 330 grantee, and today serves the general community with a full complement of integrated and lifecycle-appropriate care. DAP Health’s service area boundaries are located within the Coachella Valley, a unique desert community located in Eastern Riverside County in the Inland Empire of Southern California. The Coachella Valley comprises nine major cities as well as several unincorporated areas. The valley encompasses approximately 675 square miles, and its service area includes 310 square miles. CEO since 2006: David Brinkman.   

Established in 1970, Innercare (formerly known as Clínicas de Salud del Pueblo, Inc.) is a private nonprofit FQHC operating 10 health care centers; five dental clinics; and three Women, Infant, and Children Programs in Imperial and Riverside counties. Its service area encompasses 30 rural and urban zip codes boasting a total population of over 680,000. This area includes communities along the U.S.-Mexico and Arizona borders. It also serves communities ranging in size from Niland (pop. 1,610) to Hemet (pop. 127,443). There is significant overlap in some of the areas currently served by Borrego Health, with approximately 21% of Borrego Health’s patients currently seeking secondary care at Innercare sites. CEO since 2003: Yvonne Bell.   

Founded in 1969, Neighborhood Healthcare operates 24 health centers in San Diego and Riverside counties, serving upwards of 87,000 unique patients each year, 97% of whom are at or below 200% of FPL. Some 61% identify as Hispanic and 41% are best served in a language other than English. With deep cultural understanding, Neighborhood Healthcare excels at providing health care for all stages of life, including pediatric and adult primary care, prenatal care, family planning, HIV testing, women’s health, dental services, and basic pharmacy and lab services. Due to a large and growing Middle Eastern refugee/immigrant population in East San Diego County, Neighborhood Healthcare has developed a strong culturally and linguistically responsive program to care for Arabic speakers. CEO since 2017 (but at Neighborhood Healthcare since 2002 as a physician): Dr. Rakesh Patel.   

Important Opportunities Presented by This Alliance  

  • DAP Health would be the acquirer of the Borrego Health system with Innercare and Neighborhood providing clinical, administrative and leadership services to the alliance.  Together, the managing organizations would bring deep experience with the patient population and strong relationships with key partners such as health plans, social services agencies, and elected officials.   
  • Many employees within the expanded network may wish to transfer to a site closer to their home, offering a retention incentive for current Borrego Health and partner clinic employees alike.   
  • Each organization has unique areas of expertise it brings to the alliance. This strong partnership allows for operational and clinical cooperation for the best possible outcomes for each unique site. Innercare has deep expertise in caring for migrant and farmworker populations as well as an established presence in many of the communities served by Borrego Health. Neighborhood Healthcare offers strength in primary and family health, with strong ties in the greater San Diego area. DAP Health’s outstanding care for LGBTQ+ patients, and HIV/AIDS patients, as well as its best-practice approach to culturally responsive and relevant services, rounds out this outstanding team of partners.    
  • With strong executive leadership, oversight, and compliance, all three of the partners in this proposal can lend executive support to various sites during the transition period as the system rehires and augments operations.   
  • Neighborhood Healthcare has already successfully transferred several former Borrego Health sites to its management. This direct experience would further inform and strengthen the alliance’s approach to assuming operations for the remaining Borrego Health sites.   

DAP Health’s priority in acquiring Borrego Health is to ensure that all existing sites remain open; that services are stabilized, optimized, and expanded; and that every aspect of operations is culturally and regionally appropriate to its respective communities. Given the wide footprint of the Borrego Health system, DAP Health is honored to partner with longtime ally organizations Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare to realize the goal of providing highly effective, compliant, and culturally tailored care throughout the region.    

“For almost 40 years, DAP Health has been dedicated not only to keeping its doors open but to extending them even wider so that an ever-expanding number of community members in need can be cared for,” concludes Brinkman. “The alliance we’ve formed with Innercare and Neighborhood Healthcare — two local organizations with similarly very deep roots in the communities Borrego Health has served — ensures that nearly 120,000 patients would not see health centers they’ve grown to depend on be shuttered by an acquisitor less familiar with and committed to our neighbors in need.”   

 

Media Contact:  

Steven Henke, DAP Health Director of Brand Marketing  

Shenke@daphealth.org  

 

 

Walk Out Loud at Desert AIDS Walk 2022

THOUSANDS TO “WALK, OUT LOUD” FOR LGBTQ+ HEALTH EQUITY AT DAP HEALTH’S 2022 DESERT AIDS WALK 

What better way to remember those lost to HIV/AIDS than to unite as a community, raise our collective voice, and keep advocating for health equality, just as our brothers and sisters did at the start of the epidemic four decades ago  

PALM SPRINGS, California – Two thousand community members — from babies in strollers to seniors — are expected to participate in DAP Health’s annual Desert AIDS Walk, which will kick off at Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, October 29, tracing a route through downtown Palm Springs. The theme of this year’s event, whose presenting sponsor is Desert Care Network, is “Walk, Out Loud,” which places its focus squarely on advocacy and on uniting the entire community in the fight for LGBTQ+ health equity. 

“Unfortunately, history is repeating itself,” says David Brinkman, CEO of DAP Health, an advocacy-based health care organization that provides service to more than 10,000 individuals annually throughout the Coachella Valley. “With queer rights falling under attack across our nation, and our government’s dispiriting lack of urgency in responding to the growing Monkeypox (Mpox) crisis, 2022 looks, sounds, and feels just like the early ’80s, when HIV/AIDS was decimating our community and politicians turned their backs, refusing to act. As we learned then, silence equals death, and when our leaders abandon us, it is up to members of our community to join forces and advocate on our own behalf. Only by coming out in unprecedented numbers and raising our collective voice this year can we show local, state, and federal officials that their apathy concerning LGBTQ people is absolutely unacceptable.”  

The Desert AIDS Walk registration will begin Saturday morning at 7:30 a.m. for a 9:00 a.m. departure. The Health & Wellness Village sponsored by Walgreens will be open from 8:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Entertainers on the main stage will include The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus. 

The money raised thanks to the perennially popular pet- and family-friendly affair will go directly to fund DAP Health’s advocacy and health care efforts, with 2022 proceeds also benefitting a handful of community partners, including The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert, Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, Brothers of the Desert, The L Fund and Queer Works.  

An Enviable Track Record 

Ever since its inception in 1984, DAP Health has centered its work on advocating on behalf of populations whose voices are often unheard — people with HIV/AIDS, people of color, those living in poverty, unhoused individuals, and people with disabilities, and people struggling with substance use. Through it all, the organization has never wavered in its determination to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and today continues to: 

  • Offer free onsite and mobile HIV and STI testing, including mailing at-home HIV tests to those unable to access its main Palm Springs campus. 
  • Link people newly diagnosed with HIV to care — and help them remain in care — so that they can be undetectable, therefore unable to transfer the virus to others (U=U). 
  • Provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). 

As always, DAP Health’s day-to-day approach to health care is a holistic one. Its umbrella of culturally competent services encompasses: 

  • HIV/AIDS outreach, testing, and care 
  • STI outreach, testing, and care 
  • Primary care 
  • Mental health care 
  • Dental care 
  • Addiction treatment 
  • Medical case management 
  • Client wellness services 
  • Housing assistance 
  • Medical transport 
  • Food/grocery vouchers 
  • Social services 
  • Mobile and telehealth services 
  • Health insurance and Medi-Cal assistance  

The recent opening of a DAP Health clinic in Indio is proof of the non-profit’s ongoing desire to expand its reach into the East Valley.  

As always, no patient is ever turned away due to an inability to pay. 

Community Impact 

The positive effect of DAP Health’s continuous endeavors to improve the overall health of everyone living in the Coachella Valley has indisputably been considerable, and its recent Vision Forward: Building for a Healthier Tomorrow campaign has served as a roadmap toward ensuring health equity for every one of our desert neighbors. 

In 2021 alone: 

  • 8,298 patients were seen at DAP Health. 
  • 8,182 HIV tests were conducted, with 53 individuals being linked to HIV care following their positive diagnosis and 58 patients consulting for PEP. 
  • 4,698 patients accessed the organization’s mental health services. 
  • 4,100 patients accessed its dental health services. 
  • 2,431 substance use visits were completed. 
  • 2,924 Hep C tests were completed. 
  • 901 Hep B tests were completed. 
  • 1,558 STI appointments were scheduled, with 947 patients being treated for chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis. 
  • 1,029 patients received PrEP, including 359 new PrEP starts. 
  • 1,188 individuals attended its community health presentations. 

You can download a PDF of DAP Health’s 2021 community impact report.  

COVID-19 

The invaluable experience and expertise DAP Health has gained through its service to all residents of the Coachella Valley over the last four decades enabled it to be among the first to provide a life-saving local response to the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 and beyond. 

Monkeypox 

Similarly, DAP Health leads all other local health care organizations in its aggressive, targeted strategy to combat the widening Mpox outbreak — an effective effort that stands proudly alongside that of other cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York. The non-profit is not only continually advocating for increased assistance from local, state, and federal governments, but has secured a considerable number of Jynneos vaccine doses, which are immediately being used to inoculate community members most at risk.  

DAP Health’s Desert AIDS Walk Community Partners 

Below are statements of support from some of DAP Health’s community partners.  

“The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert is proud to partner with DAP Health and Desert AIDS Walk 2022 to advance LGBTQ+ health equity in the Coachella Valley,” says Executive Director and CEO Rob Wheeler. “The Desert AIDS Walk brings our diverse community together in a powerful statement of solidarity, action, and resolve. The Walk reminds us that the LGBTQ+ community continues to be disproportionately affected by HIV and that all LGBTQ+ people deserve dignity, equity in health care access, and to live long, healthy lives.”  

“At Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, we believe all people should have access to the health care they need to make the best decisions for their health, life, and future,” says Vice President of External Affairs Vernita Gutierrez. “LGBTQ+ people deserve to live full and authentic lives free from discrimination, judgment, and stigma. As health care providers, educators, and advocates, Planned Parenthood is committed to serving all people with care and respect. We are proud to work in collaboration with partner organizations and community members in the Coachella Valley to work together toward health equity for all.” 

“As Brothers of the Desert supports this year’s AIDS Walk, we are encouraged by its focus on health equity for traditionally underserved and overlooked people. Let us be mindful on Saturday, October 29, 2022, that every great march for progress, from African American rights to LGBTQ equality, started with like-minded individuals joining forces and taking that first step to lift communities in need.”

Desert AIDS Walk 2022 Sponsors  

Presenting Sponsor: Desert Care Network 

Health and Wellness Village Sponsor: Walgreens  

Major Sponsors: Gilead, NBC Palm Springs, Revivals Stores, The Desert Sun 

Event Sponsors: Hot Purple Energy, Koffi, Palm Springs Disposal, Sysco 

Media Sponsors: Alpha Media, Coachella Valley Independent, GED Magazine, KGay, Promo Homo TV,  Standard Magazine, The Hollywood Times Today

For Participants 

Individuals interested in participating in the 2022 Desert AIDS Walk: Walk, Out Loud may register at desertaidswalk.org.  

For Sponsors  

Businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities related to the Walk or to the Health & Wellness Village may learn more by contacting DAP Health’s Director of Development James Lindquist at jlindquist@daphealth.org or 760.656.8413. 

About DAP Health 

DAP Health isanadvocacy-basedhealthcenter in Palm Springs, CA servingover 10,000 patients, offering medical and mental health care, free STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab services. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.  Click here to read more about our commitment to health equity.      

DAP Health opened one of California’s first COVID clinics and hotlinesto offer screening, testing, and treatment. DAP Health is also working to address social determinants of health that are causing negative health outcomes during this pandemic, like food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation, and access to ongoing health care. 

DAP Health’s sexual health clinics offer free STI testing and treatment, free Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) services, and free HIV and HCV testing. DAP Health has earned Charity Navigator’s highest ratingfor the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP Health in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that DAP Healthexceeds industry standards in terms of financial health, accountability, and transparency.      

Visitwww.daphealth.orgto learn more.      

NEWS RELEASE 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

Contact: Steven Henke 

shenke@daphealth.org 

612 310 3047 

 

Monkeypox is an Emergency

A State of Emergency with a Solution: Prioritize LGBTQ+ Health Equity Today  

We went from 1 monkeypox case in May to 5,000+ preventable cases today. I am devastated by how many people are in horrific pain. Pain and suffering could have been avoided had the U.S. followed its own predictions and prepared to respond.

Since the 2003 U.S. monkeypox outbreak, experts predicted another. And as HIV and COVID taught us, an outbreak would dominate in marginalized populations who face barriers to health equity.   

We are now in a state of emergency as declared by WHO (World Health Organization) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.    

The emergency is the rapid spread, but that is not where the emergency ends:   

The emergency is that prior to this outbreak, the US had an effective monkeypox test, effective medications, and an effective vaccine, yet our highest-risk populations still do not have access to it.   

The emergency is that many people, presently infected with monkeypox, are experiencing severe pain; pain so significant that eating and eliminating waste requires pain medication and in some cases, hospitalization.  

The emergency is that even prior to this outbreak, organized political discrimination against LGBTQ+ populations has been steadily increasing.   

DAP Health was founded because many in power failed our community. While AIDS attacked us from one side, apathy, and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community slowed the response, leaving us alone with a virus that robbed us of loved ones.   

It took until July 23 for the WHO to declare monkeypox a global health emergency - stating it was partly because the disease had not moved out of the primary risk group, men who have sex with men. Sadly, it should come as no surprise the US response remains slow and inadequate for LGBTQ+ community members worried about contracting monkeypox and to the thousands of people who have already been diagnosed.   

The only reason the monkeypox virus has not been contained is that the U.S. has yet to treat this threat to the health of gay, bisexual, and transgender people as the health emergency it is. New York and San Fransisco, both early in the response to HIV and COVID, have declared a state of emergency. Like DAP Health, they have been here before and they know that now is the time for a coordinated and swift response.   

DAP Health, with a patient population of 10,000, has only received 497 doses of vaccine and has yet to receive the TPOXX medication for treatment. Our nation’s LGBTQ+ community health centers, with a history of treating the community’s physical and mental health; with expertise in addressing stigma and discrimination, are most likely to reach those at risk for monkeypox, and yet, we are being overlooked and under-resourced.    

There is a solution to this health emergency:  

LGBTQ+ organizations should be the priority for vaccine supply and medications for treatment; because our approach strengthens the LGBTQ+ community. To end monkeypox, we must confront the discrimination in the US that has enabled this preventable crisis.   

LGBTQ+ health equity goes beyond a “shot in the arm.”  Our approach addresses the health disparities faced by LGBTQ+ communities by incorporating free HIV and STI testing and treatment, free PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) services, and access to affordable primary care, mental health, and substance use recovery.   

Every one of us needs to do our part. Let our elected officials know there is NO EXCUSE for another week of cases doubling while people suffer in excruciating pain. Let our elected officials know we are in a state of emergency and that the time has come to prioritize LGBTQ+ health equity. 

Here is an update about how we are prioritizing the distribution of the doses received and how we continue to respond to the current health emergency.  

DAP Health administered all 160 doses provided in our first allotment from the Riverside Department of Public Health.  

On Friday, DAP Health received 337 additional doses. High-risk DAP Health patients and community members who fit the current priority guidelines received an invitation to schedule an appointment for the JYNNEOS vaccine.   

DAP Health’s monkeypox hotline launched on August 1, and we are adding invitation-only Saturday vaccine clinics beginning August 6.  

DAP Health MPX Hotline: 760-656-8432 or MPOX@daphealth.org   

To stay up to date on the latest developments regarding Monkeypox please visit our landing page: daphealth.org/monkeypox 

 

Brothers of the Desert Empowering Black …

Brothers of the Desert Empowers Black Men and Allies in the Coachella Valley

On Feb. 7, Brothers of the Desert and Let’s Kick ASS will host a free online discussion, “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real – HIV and Black Gay Men.”

When chairperson Tim Vincent and the founders of Brothers of the Desert began their organization, it was a way to ensure black gay men would not feel isolated and have a group where they can bond. And in a short amount of time, Brothers of the Desert has emerged as a force in the Coachella Valley.  

Brothers of the Desert is a nonprofit that provides support for Black gay men and allies in the Coachella Valley through philanthropy, volunteering, mentorship, education, advocacy, and social networking.  

“When we were first meeting, we would go to a restaurant and there would be 10 of us and people would be like, ‘Is there a conference in town?’” Vincent says. 

One New Year’s Eve, they got together, and the group amounted to 20 men, all accomplished in different industries.  

“One person said, ‘This is nice that we are doing this.’ And looking around the room at who is in this group and what we have accomplished in our lives, we have a lot more to give than just socializing, hanging out, and connecting. Why don’t we make this a little more purposeful,” Vincent remembers. 

Since its birth in 2017, Brothers of the Desert has developed two signature events, the Wellness Summit in November, which DAP Health proudly sponsors, and the New Year’s Eve dinner-dance fundraiser. They also award scholarships to students and host a quarterly speaker series that covers topics such as practicing mindfulness, responding to systemic racism, acknowledging microaggression, and mental health and wellness for Black Queer communities.  

On Feb. 7, Brothers of the Desert and Let’s Kick ASS will host a free online discussion, “You Make Me Feel Mighty Real – HIV and Black Gay Men.” The special guest will be Corey Saucier, a Black queer HIV-positive poet, author, and playwright who will share some of his writings and his personal life story of living with HIV.  

The program will provide a retrospective on HIV in the Black Gay Community, updates on infection rates and treatment, testing and support groups, local resources, poetry reading, and music from Dr. Stephan Scoggins.  

“Vincent says Brothers of the Desert is creating a space for link-minded men in the desert, while also respecting the other organizations. Brothers of the Desert wants to be inclusive and supportive of its allies. 

“We want people to know that this is not an anomaly, that we are part of this community, and we are vital to this community,” Vincent says.  

Learn more about Brothers of the Desert by visiting their website.