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8am to 5pm Mon - Fri

Managing Seasonal Affective Disorder (SA …

MANAGING SEASONAL AFFECTIVE DISORDER (SAD) 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

For most people, seasonal affective disorder — commonly known as SAD — starts in the fall and continues well into the winter months. “It saps your energy and makes you feel kind of low, moody, and depressed,” explains DAP Health Behavioral Health Director Dr. Jill Gover, affectionately known on campus as Dr. G. “And then those symptoms will resolve themselves in the spring and summer months.” While the exact cause of SAD is unknown, “It’s very likely that it’s connected to a drop in serotonin,” says Dr. Gover. “When we go into the winter months, we have less light. Sunlight produces serotonin. When we have drops in serotonin, it can trigger depression.” 

Additional symptoms of SAD include sleeping too much and having intense carbohydrate cravings. “When we crave carbohydrates, we’re usually low in serotonin in our brain chemistry,” Dr. G. says. “And if we eat a really high-carb diet, it often involves some kind of weight gain, which can exacerbate the depressed feelings.” There can also be difficulty concentrating, feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness, low energy, oftentimes guilt, and even suicidal ideation. “When you have this winter depression, as it’s sometimes called, and just a kind of overall malaise, it’s important to seek professional help,” adds Dr. G. 

According to Dr. Gover, the first line of treatment is daily exposure to light within the first hour of waking up. “Natural outdoor light appears to change your brain chemistry,” she says. “It produces serotonin.” The doctor also recommends making your environment sunnier and brighter. “Open the blinds and trim back trees to get more sunlight into your home,” she says. “Get outside, take a long walk. Simply sit on a bench and soak up the sun. Even on a cold or cloudy day, outdoor light is very helpful. That early light is very important.” 

Exercising regularly also helps by producing serotonin as well as dopamine, the neurochemicals needed to feel good. “And it’s important to normalize sleep patterns,” Dr. G. affirms. “Go to sleep and get up at the same time every day. And don’t nap!” 

With the sun shining 354 days a year on average in Palm Springs, SAD is not as prevalent here as in other parts of the country. However, for those who experience that mood shift every fall, DAP Health can help. “We offer behavioral health services and any one of our licensed clinicians can provide excellent treatment,” Dr. Gover emphasizes. One of the most effective treatments for SAD is phototherapy, which involves sitting in front of a special light box. “We have psychotherapy, we have medication management, and we can assist patients in locating a light box and give them criteria to identify high-quality products so they can also engage in light therapy.” 

Dr. G.’s warning: “Winter depression can definitely become very serious and really interfere with the quality of your life. If anybody is struggling, if they are experiencing any symptoms, then I encourage them to seek therapy.” 

DAP Health Joins Millions Around the Glo …

DAP Health and the Palm Springs Community Join Millions Around the Globe to Mark World AIDS Day 2022 

Words by Daniel Vaillancourt 

 

On Thursday, December 1, millions of concerned men, women, and children around the globe will make a special observance of World AIDS Day. Its theme for 2022 is “Equalize.”  

But here at DAP Health — for the last 38 years, 365 days per — we’ve made it our mission to advocate and equalize, to remember all those whom we’ve lost, to manifest our commitment to those currently living and aging well with HIV — and most importantly, to help end the epidemic once and for all. 

So far in 2022, we have:

  • Administered 3,902 free HIV tests at our Sexual Wellness Clinics in Palm Springs and Indio, and through our mobile clinic. 
  • Distributed 793 free self-HIV tests for home use. 
  • Enrolled 80 patients in our Rapid StART Program, whereby each received two free HIV-related medical visits plus treatment regimens. 

DAP Health also continues to provide free access to both Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) and Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) to those who request it. 

Thriving with HIV is more than seeing a doctor and taking medication to become undetectable, therefore making HIV untransmissible,” says DAP Health Director of Community Health & Sexual Wellness CJ Tobe. “It’s all aspects of what leads to a person attending their first medical appointment and addressing the negative social determinants of health so that person remains in medical care.  

Regardless of the barriers preventing one from knowing their HIV status or seeking care upon HIV diagnosis, DAP Health works tirelessly to remove those barriers to improve the patient's access, not only to free testing but to our Rapid StART Program at both of our wellness clinics, in Palm Springs and Indio. The first two visits are free, and we also provide transportation assistance (via Lyft, gas cards, and bus passes), food vouchers, TracFones, behavioral health and substance use support, and more.” 

By the Numbers 

According to the most recent statistics (2020) available from the Riverside HIV/STD Program of the Riverside University Health System, there are currently “6,820 people reported to be living with HIV in east Riverside County [AKA, the Coachella Valley, which includes Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Thousand Palms, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indio, Coachella, La Quinta, Thermal, Mecca, and Blythe]. The prevalence rate of PLWH [people living with HIV] in Palm Springs (7,535.2 per 100,000) is over 21 times higher than California overall … and two thirds of PLWH in Riverside County reside in east Riverside County.” 

Furthermore, per the World Health Organization (WHO), “The global HIV response is in danger, even as HIV remains a major public health issue that affects millions of people worldwide. Over the last few years, progress toward HIV goals has stalled, resources have shrunk, and millions of lives are at risk as a result. Division, disparity, and disregard for human rights are among the failures that allowed HIV to become and remain a global health crisis.  

“On 1 December WHO joins partners to commemorate World AIDS Day 2022, under the theme ‘Equalize.’ WHO is calling on global leaders and citizens to boldly recognize and address the inequalities which are holding back progress in ending AIDS; and equalize access to essential HIV services particularly for children and key populations and their partners — men who have sex with men, transgender people, people who use drugs, sex workers, and prisoners.” 

Globally, it is estimated that some 38 million people are living with HIV today. Since 1984 — the year DAP Health (formerly Desert AIDS Project) was founded — more than 35 million men, women, and children have died of HIV or AIDS-related illnesses, making this health crisis one of the costliest in history. 

Again according to WHO, “To reach the new proposed global 95–95–95 targets set by UNAIDS, we will need to redouble our efforts to avoid the worst-case scenario of 7.7 million HIV-related deaths over the next 10 years, increasing HIV infections due to HIV service disruptions during COVID-19, and the slowing public health response to HIV.” 

If you feel compelled to act on World AIDS Day, get tested, wear a red ribbon, and talk about HIV/AIDS to anyone who will listen. And of course, please consider donating as generously as you can to DAP Health.  

On December 1, all of us must join the huge-hearted men, women, and children on our planet who commemorate World AIDS Day. But there will be no need for we at DAP Health to roll up our sleeves and continue our great work in this great fight.  

Why not? 

Because we’ve simply never stopped. Nor will we, until the HIV/AIDS epidemic is truly history. 

DAP Health Keeps Transgender People Safe …

DAP Health Keeps Transgender People Safe and Healthy 

Words by Charles Sanchez 

November 13-19 marked Transgender Awareness Week, a time to celebrate, raise awareness on behalf of, and uplift the transgender community. The annual observance ended with the Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDoR) on November 20. However, DAP Health’s firm commitment to the rights — and health — of transgender people is year-round. 

DAP Health Senior Nurse Practitioner Anthony Velasco is a champion for transgender people and gender-affirming health care. “As a queer person myself,” they said, “I think I’m quite sensitive to the needs of very queer, very diverse people.”  

The Human Rights Campaign Foundation estimates there are 2 million transgender people in the United States. The term transgender — or trans — is an umbrella that includes not only trans women and men, but people who identify as non-binary, genderqueer, gender non-conforming, gender-diverse, agender, bigender, or other descriptions that reflect personal experience and choice.  

The 2015 United States Transgender Survey, which surveyed more than 27,000 trans adults nationwide, found that trans people experience many health disparities when compared to heterosexual, cisgender people. These disparities include not only lapses in primary care, but also in gender-specific, sexual, and mental health. For example, statistically, trans people (especially trans women of color) face an increased risk of HIV infection, while trans men are less likely to undergo preventive cancer screenings. Yet many in the trans community don’t seek basic health care due to past negative encounters with medical providers. These includes being denied care or suffering verbal abuse and even sexual harassment.  

Although Palm Springs is known to be very LGBTQ+ friendly, Velasco said there are still occasions when local trans individuals have been mistreated when seeking care. “I remember having a client tell me they’d been to other clinicians in the past, whether here in the Coachella Valley or in the surrounding areas, where their gender identity was not accepted, or where providers refused to give them the medications or treatments they deserved,” they said. Some clients have intimated they were physically assaulted while waiting for a bus to the clinic, while others drive as much as three hours to receive the gender-affirming care DAP Health provides.  

The organization has long been committed to caring for its trans clients with professionalism and respect. “The things we’re doing to address the needs of our transgender community is multi-level,” Velasco said, adding it starts with creating safe spaces for all clients. “This includes making sure what we have on our website or on our buildings is representative of the people we serve.”  

DAP Health also provides space on electronic medical records and forms that allows trans people to use their chosen names and pronouns. “We put our pronouns on our own IDs and email signatures,” Velasco pointed out, “and use our pronouns when introducing ourselves. We really make every effort to normalize this, whether we’re talking to someone who’s expressing a different gender identity or somebody who’s a cis person. Things like this need to apply to everybody. Finally, we’re making sure we’re providing new employee orientation and annual training for all our staff and volunteers.” 

Clinicians at DAP Health also attend trainings provided by the World Professional Association for Transgender Health (WPATH), an international non-profit dedicated to promoting evidence-based care, education, research, public policy, and respect in transgender health. “We’re trying to get all our clinicians WPATH certified,” Velasco stressed, “to make sure we really care for our patients in the right way.” 

Additionally, DAP Health collaborates with other community organizations to further support trans clients. “We have a very good relationship with a trans-led organization called Queer Works,” Velasco said. “They provide free mental health care and free housing assistance for gender-diverse folks.” 

DAP Health also has alliances with the Transgender Health and Wellness Center, the Transgender Community Coalition, and the LGBT Center of the Desert so as to create a veritable framework of support to improve the well-being of the community in general.  

“I think all of us have the responsibility to make all of our environments more affirmative,” Velasco concluded. “DAP Health has been working really hard to open its doors wider and to ensure it provides better care for all its patients. Not just for people living with HIV, but for anybody who is systemically or has historically been minoritized or marginalized. And that includes transgender and gender-diverse people.”