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Aging Positively — Reunion Project 202 …

HIV and Aging Conference Header Image

Contact: Steven Henke                                 
Director of Brand Marketing 
(612) 310-3047 
shenke@daphealth.org 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

August 5 2021  

Local Organizations Collaborate on HIV & Aging Conference  

Aging Positively — Reunion Project Set September 18, 2021  

Aging Positively — Reunion Project, the annual Coachella Valley conference aimed at providing practical information and inspiration for those aging with HIV, will bring together community leaders to improve the lives of older adults living with HIV for a virtual conference on Sept. 18, 2021. The conference will feature an HIV research panel of top experts discussing HIV and aging issues in our community.   

September 18 is National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day — a day to call attention to the growing number of people living long and full lives with HIV and to aging-related challenges of HIV prevention, testing, treatment, and care.    

The virtual conference is free to attendees and open to the public. Presented by Eisenhower Health, this year's event is the result of a unique collaboration among local service providers and organizations focused on improving the shared experience of older adults living with HIV.  

People with HIV are living longer lives, thanks to advancements in scientific research and medical treatments; today, about half of HIV positive individuals in the U.S. are age 50 and above. Aging persons living with HIV have experienced tremendous loss, stigma, and discrimination throughout their lifetime and within the healthcare system.  In comparison to similar HIV-negative populations, individuals aging with HIV may experience an early onset of aging complications such as neurocognitive decline, impaired physical function, frailty, and falls.    

Karl Schmid, the entertainment reporter for ABC7 LA will speak on HIV and the media. The ABC reporter, who came out as HIV Positive in 2018, uses his multimedia platform, +Life, to educate and combat HIV stigma.  

At ABC7, Karl has been a regular contributor since 2013, joining the team as a correspondent and producer on the then-weekly and syndicated "On The Red Carpet." 

A passionate activist in the fight against HIV stigma, Schmid launched +Life (www.pluslifemedia.com) in 2019 online to help foster a new conversation around what it means for people living with HIV and to tackle the stigma still associated with the virus. +Life is also part of Localish TV on the newly launched Localish TV network. 

"HIV is not killing people but stigma is, and this is what needs to change," Schmid said in a statement. "We need to talk more about HIV and its advancements, about what U=U means, and we should not be stigmatized by society. 

"We need to have more information on mainstream media about how you contract HIV, prevention and treatments available so that people stop stigmatizing those that are positive and realize that anyone can have HIV and live a completely normal and healthy life."  

Since coming out as HIV-positive, Schmid has used his platform to educate and fight bias.  

Keynote speaker Andy Bell of Erasure fame will share his personal story. Bell is a founding member of Erasure.  Formed in 1985, when former Depeche Mode and Yazoo member Clarke advertised for a new singer. The duo quickly became enormously successful in the U.K., U.S., and several other countries with hits like “Chains of Love,” “A Little Respect,” and “Oh L’amour.” Now, three decades into their career, they are considered one of the most adored and influential synthpop bands selling more than 25 million records. In 2019, Erasure released their 18th studio album, The Neon. 

Bell has become an icon within the LGBTQ+ community for his honesty, compassion and support. Among his support of various LGBTQ+ causes, Bell has served as an ambassador for New York’s Hetrick-Martin Institute, and he is currently a patron of the Cambridge, England-based charity Diverse and of Above The Stag, London’s only LGBTQ+ theater. 

Topics and speakers:  

  •  Keynote speaker: Andy Bell from Erasure 
  • “Honoring Our Experience” with Gregg Cassin 
  • “KeeLee Meditation” with Dr. Daniel Lee, from the University of California, San Diego's Owen Clinic 
  • “HIV & The Media”: Karl Schmid is the entertainment reporter for ABC7 LA. He recently revealed his HIV status and has been an advocate for U=U as well as breaking down HIV stigma. 
  • HIV research update panel: 
    • Borrego Health: Valerio Iovino, i-Care 
    • DAP Health: Dr. Tulika Singh 
    • Eisenhower Health: Dr. Ken Lichtenstein 
    • Palmtree: Dr. Carlos Martinez 
    • HIV+ Aging Research Project-Palm Springs (HARP-PS): Jeff Taylor  
    • Caregiving with Perry Wiggins from The Center, end-of-life doula Alex Snell, and Richard Bass from PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors)
    •  “Let’s Kick ASS”: Brian DeVries speaks about sustaining and making new friendships late in life 

What: The Aging Positively — Reunion Project 6th annual HIV conference is a collaboration between the HIV+ Aging Research Project—Palm Springs and other nonprofit community partners. It will be a virtual conference consisting of a mix of facilitated discussions, panels, and presentations led by key researchers, advocates, and long-term survivors of HIV/AIDS.  

When:  The 6th Annual Aging Positively — Reunion Project virtual conference will be held 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Sept. 18, 2021. 

Where:  Attendees can attend the conference from the digital device of their choice.  In-person elements may be announced later.  

How: Registration is free and open on Eventbrite: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/hiv-aging-virtual-conference-tickets-162082616469  

Collaborating Organizations:  

ANAC   

The Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) is the leading health care organization responding to HIV/AIDS. Since its founding in 1987, ANAC has been meeting the needs of nurses and other healthcare professionals in HIV/AIDS care, research, prevention, and policy.  

 ANAC aims to promote the health and welfare of people affected by HIV/AIDS by:  

  • Creating an effective, engaged network of nurses in AIDS care. 
  • Studying, researching and exchanging information, experiences and ideas leading to improved care and prevention. 
  • Providing leadership to the nursing community in matters related to HIV/AIDS infection and its co-morbidities. 
  • Advocating for effective public policies and quality care for people living with HIV. 
  • Promoting social awareness concerning issues related to HIV/AIDS. 

Borrego Health   

Borrego Health provides high-quality, comprehensive, compassionate primary health care to the people in our communities, regardless of their ability to pay. They serve these communities and adjoining regions with respect, dignity, and cultural sensitivity as a medical home and safety net for essential health care and social services. Borrego Health is a non-profit 501(c)(3) Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) and a Federal Tort Claims Act Deemed (FTCA) facility.  

DAP Health   

At DAP Health, no one wonders if they belong — they just feel it. People can rely on culturally competent and stigma-free care at DAP Health.    

DAP Health offers medical and mental healthcare tailored to patients and clients by clinicians who listen to them. DAP Health has been meeting the diverse needs or its community since 1984, and it offers culturally competent care with no stigma about a person’s race, being LGBTQ+, or living with HIV. By actively listening, we can offer people care and services that meet their unique needs.     

  • Sexual wellness — DAP Health’s Orange Clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and hepatitis C testing.
  •  Thriving with HIV and ending the epidemic — DAP Health helps patients living with HIV thrive by staying healthy, undetectable and untransmittable to others. They become part of DAP Health's family beginning with testing, linkage into care, and then being enrolled in medical and mental healthcare, dentistry, social services, and prescription access. 
  • Mental health services — DAP Health offers individual and group therapy and has a substance abuse program that emphasizes recovery and relapse prevention. Mental health is health — no stigma, no shame. It just takes seeing a person truly where he/she/they are in their personal journey. 
  • Ongoing primary care — Join more than 9,700 patients who enjoy culturally competent care from clinicians and care teams who become like family. DAP Health's team works with patients to coordinate their care and ensure they have everything they need to stay healthy.  

Eisenhower Health  

Eisenhower HIV Clinic: Recognizing the complex health care needs of the LGBTQ patient population, Eisenhower Medical Center offers a comprehensive range of clinical, research and education resources — starting with a team of dedicated primary care doctors who have exceptional experience and expertise.  

Eisenhower HIV Clinic Primary Care Services: Providing state-of-the-art care for HIV patients requires knowledge of the latest treatments and best practices in the detection and treatment of HIV. Eisenhower's HIV Primary Care program is focused on the overall health of each patient, including:  

  • Appropriate utilization of advances in HIV care to sustain the best possible quality of life, including appropriate STD and cancer screening as well as healthy aging  
  • Best practices to prevent the spread of HIV  
  •  Compassionate access to new medicines for highly drug-resistant patients  
  • Our team includes HIV primary care doctors Board Certified in Internal Medicine or Family Medicine, with an additional certification as an HIV specialist with the American Academy of HIV Medicine (AAHIVM).  
  • Eisenhower Health is proud to collaborate with many nonprofit organizations here in the Coachella Valley providing HIV and related healthcare services, through partnership connectivity of services, referrals, and education.  

HARP-PS   

The HIV+ Aging Research Project-Palm Springs is a grassroots community non-profit that conducts research and provides education to improve the quality of life for long-term HIV survivors in the Coachella Valley. They collaborate with academic partners throughout Southern California and nationally to conduct socio-behavioral research on issues like resiliency and COVID-19 affecting HIV survivors. They hold monthly provider events to provide education on HIV Treatment issues, and they held monthly COVID Rounds during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. They also provide the monthly Positive Life HIV education series with topics and speakers tailored to the unique needs of their HIV survivor community. They created the annual Reunion Project daylong regional seminar to bring together the HIV and aging community in Southern California. Last year they combined forces with DAP Health and other community partners on the Aging Positively-Reunion Project event, which is held each year on or around HIV and Aging Awareness Day on September 18.    

Jewish Family Service of the Desert 

Since its inception as part of the Jewish Federation of Palm Springs and Desert Area in 1982, JFS has grown—not just in size, but in its ability to serve the people of the Coachella Valley. Beginning as a small group of volunteers who checked in on seniors and disabled people who lived alone, JFS Desert has evolved into an organization of professionals and volunteers that provide a broad range of support and services to thousands of Coachella Valley residents each year.  

JFS Desert’s experienced case managers can assist in exploring potential resources. They will assess clients’ eligibility for services and programs and can help facilitate the application process to obtain benefits and support. JFS case managers are a resource for the Coachella Valley, providing emergency financial assistance to prevent homelessness. JFS also works with local and county organizations to advocate for the rights of seniors in the valley. The JFS case management team takes a holistic service approach, collaborating with internal departments to ensure clients’ needs are addressed. We are dedicated to making sure that mental health issues and affordable housing stay front and center for our valley citizens.   

Let’s Kick ASS Palm Springs 

Let’s Kick ASS Palm Springs is an inclusive social group seeking to reduce the stresses of AIDS Survivor Syndrome. They welcome members regardless of HIV status, race, gender, age, or sexuality, believing that the individual is the best judge of the impact of HIV on their life. LKAPS organizes social functions providing opportunities to develop friendships and community.  

They support education and advocacy to raise awareness of AIDS Survivor Syndrome, long-term survivors, and the challenges they face.  

People feel better when engaged in social activity. LKAPS helps long-term survivors overcome isolation by creating social opportunities. From their popular monthly potlucks, twice-monthly coffee socials, bowling team, and movie nights, to now-established annual events such as June 5's Long-term Survivors Day reception and the Thanksgiving Day feast, LKAPS benefits its members through engagement with their local community of HIV survivors.  

PALS  

PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors) is a volunteer-led community initiative based in Palm Springs that helps LGBTQ+ adults and friends plan ahead before a health or other life-altering situation arises.   

Having a plan in place mitigates stress and anxiety, ensures that LGBTQ+ adults are in control of their future care and legacy, and relieves the burden on family and friends.  

The Center   

At The Center, they like to say they create vibrant community by helping LGBTQ+ people along their way, wherever they might be in life’s journey. Even better, The Center likes to live it, breathe it, and do it. If someone is looking to meet new friends, get resources, or enrich their life and their place in community, they have come to the right place.  

Based in the Coachella Valley, The Center serves people of all ages, totaling more than 70,000 visits annually. How do they attract so many people? They do it with meaningful, relevant and mission-focused programming that addresses three strategic initiatives:  

  •   Ending isolation and loneliness  
  •   Connecting people to resources and community  
  •   Enriching individual and collective experiences 

About DAP Health 

DAP Health is an advocacy-based health center in Palm Springs, Calif., serving more than 10,000 patients, offering medical and mental healthcare, 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.      

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

DAP Health’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) testing. DAP Health has earned Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the twelfth consecutive year — landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that DAP Health exceeds industry standards in terms of financial health, accountability, and transparency.      

Visit www.daphealth.org to learn more.     

 

Honoring Black History with Health Acces …

Honoring Black History with Health Access 

 

As we pay tribute to generations of Black Americans who struggled for a place at the table in American society, we must call attention to serious health inequities threatening them today around COVID.  

According to the CDC, only five percent of all COVID vaccines so far have gone to Black Americans, who continue to suffer from unacceptable gaps in healthcare access in the U.S.  

DAP Health’s vaccine framework is rooted in health equity, ensuring communities and populations disproportionately affected by COVID-19 have priority access to the vaccine. Outreach to our patients age 65 and over has already begun.  

In 2021, we are increasing opportunities for health in Black neighborhoods with enhanced mobile services that offer linkage to ongoing medical care, vital during this pandemic.  

“COVID has pushed us to do even more to reach people living in minority neighborhoods,” said David Brinkman, CEO.  “so that African Americans know DAP is a committed BLM partner and here to help.” 

We welcomed a specialized nurse to assist the mobile team, and we added Virtual Visit technology to our Mobile Testing Van so DAP Health doctors can beam in during visits when helpful.  

Accessing care and services will be easier in 2021 because we are offering case management (traditionally reserved for our HIV-positive clients) to a broader segment of the community who may be needing help getting into care. 

We are also providing smartphones and WiFi access to clients unable to afford them so that telehealth visits can continue and grow. 

“Increasing health services via our mobile unit for patients in Black neighborhoods will help anyone who may be fearing racism or stigma from traditional healthcare,” said C.J. Tobe, Community Health director. “Our clinics are welcoming, but DAP Health is also willing to meet people where they are at, especially during this pandemic.” 

DAP Health's holistic model aims to address social determinants that lead to negative health outcomes, especially those related to the pandemic — this includes food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation and access to health care.  

Read more about DAP Health, plus its expanding role in public health and health equity here.  

To become a patient, click here. 

About DAP Health  

DAP Health (DAP) is an advocacy-based health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 patients, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. 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.      

DAP opened one of California’s first COVID clinic and hotlines to offer screening, testing, and treatment. DAP 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 healthcare.  

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

Visit www.daphealth.org to learn more.      

Building Hope on Solid Ground

Building Hope on Solid Ground  

New housing on DAP campus gets city approval, Dr. Kekar says trust vaccines, and Dr. G offers practical wisdom on getting through the holidays this year. 

City Council Approval Feels Like Home 

Even though COVID shook us in 2020, we did not give up on our promise to build additional safe and affordable housing as we expand our campus. We are thankful to the Palm Springs City Council for its unanimous approval last week for us to add 61 affordable housing units and 18,500 square feet of healthcare space at our campus.  

We are proud to call the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition our partner in developing these beautiful new living spaces, with 29 units reserved for residents coming out of homelessness. 

We couldn’t agree more with Palm Springs City Councilwoman Lisa Middleton when she said the expansion is "a stunningly beautiful project, and anyone would be proud to be able to call it home." You can read more in The Desert Sun’s coverage here. 

Dr. Kerkar Urges: Trust COVID Vaccines 

Now that vaccines to fight COVID are becoming available, convincing everybody that they are safe and effective is crucial if we are going to eradicate this infection. DAP Director of Infectious Diseases Dr. Shubha Kerkar shared about why she trusts them, looking at other vaccines in recent memory that helped eradicate polio and smallpox. You can read more here. 

Get Through Holiday Blues with Dr. Gover 

The holidays can be a difficult time, and this year COVID is compounding feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness for many in our community. Paying extra attention to our emotional health is important this holiday season, and it just got easier with practical strategies from Dr. Jill Gover, DAP’s behavioral health manager.  

Dr. Gover says that having a plan for how you will spend them is important, even if you are isolating at home to keep safe. You can read more here

Coping with the Holiday Blues in 2020

Coping with the Holiday Blues in 2020  

Palm Springs, CA (December 17, 2020) -- The holidays can be a difficult time, and this year COVID is compounding feelings of stress, anxiety, and sadness for many in our community. Paying extra attention to our emotional health is important this holiday season, says Dr. Jill Gover, DAP’s behavioral health manager.  

“For many LGBTQ+ folks, the holiday season is a trying time, especially if you are estranged from your biological family,” says Dr. Gover.  “Many of us have opted for chosen family, and this year we cannot be with our chosen families, either.” 

Having a plan for how you will spend the holidays is important, even if you are isolating at home to keep safe. 

Get started by acknowledging your feelings. 

Feelings of discontent are normal but dwelling in denial is dangerous.  

It’s normal to feel sad if you cannot be with loved ones this year. It’s also normal to swing from feeling happy and excited about the holiday season, to feeling sad and disappointed.  

This year the holidays will definitely feel bittersweet,” says Dr. Gover, who wants to remind everyone: 

It’s important to express your sad feelings.  

If you don’t, says Gover, they can bottle up inside you. If you try to be stoic about it and you keep saying “it’s fine, it’s fine,” the difficult feelings will seep out in other ways that may be harmful to you.  

Don’t pretend to be happy just because it’s the holiday season.  

“It’s OK to acknowledge there’s some sadness here as well.” Celebrating the holidays will look different this year, and due to social isolation, stress and uncertainty around the pandemic, it’s a difficult time. 

This holiday season, things will be different, “and that’s OK,” says Dr. Gover. Her advice is: “Be realistic and let go of previous expectations.” 

Things to keep in mind: 

  • The holidays don’t have to be perfect 
  • It’s OK to change your annual ritual to reduce stress 
  • Recognize that the new normal is not the same as the old normal 

Strategies to work through the holiday season that anyone can use are: 

Set Aside Differences 

Accept family and friends as they are. Recognize that others are experiencing holiday stress and depression, too.  

Stick to a budget  

You don’t have to overspend to compensate for not being with the ones you love, especially if it will create a financial crisis later for you.  

Try these alternatives: 

  • Donate to charity- nonprofits need our help right now 
  • Give homemade gifts 
  • Instead of individual gifts for each family member, consider just one gift for the entire family to use together. This will reduce stress. 

Plan Your Holidays 

Decide how you want to spend your holidays“Think about how you want to spend the holidays now, so they don’t sneak up on you,” says Dr. Gover. “You don’t want to wake up on the special day and feel bereft.”  

If alone, plan to do something specialThis could include setting up a structured time for a Zoom visit with loved ones, taking a hike, watching the sunrise, or making a special meal 

Learn to Say No 

“It’s so important to set limits.” If you feel vulnerable or overwhelmed, it’s OK t to say “no” to an event. 

Set boundaries 

Stay away from people, places and things that are not emotionally or physically safe 

Keep healthy habits  

Don’t forfeit what you’ve been doing during this pandemic to keep yourself healthy.  

  • Get plenty of sleep 
  • Maintain a regular exercise routine  

Don’t Forget Seasonal Affective Disorder  

We are in the darker part of the year, with the days ending earlier. Less sunlight can cause Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)—health experts warn us that these symptoms are worsening due to the required isolating we all have to practice. Read more about SAD here 

Take a breather—create enough time for self-care.  

Give yourself downtime 

  • Take a walk 
  • Listen to soothing music 
  • Do a guided imagery relaxation 
  • Read a “fun” book 
  • Take a bath 
  • Play with your pet 
  • Meditate or do yoga 

About Therapy at DAP 

Desert AIDS Project is proud to offer in-person psychological services, as well as Virtual Visits and phone visits via your laptop, tablet, or smartphone.  If you or someone you know would like to find out more about therapy at DAP, please call (760) 992-0450 or log on to daphealth.org. 

About Dr. Jill Gover 

Dr. Jill Gover leads a team of compassionate and competent California licensed clinical psychologists who are ready to help our community. 

Dr. Gover is passionate about social and environmental justice advocacy and LGBT political activism and she has volunteered with various political causes and campaigns such as the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Human Rights Campaign, and Equality California. Learn more about Dr. Gover here. 

About DAP Health Center    

DAP Health Center (DAP) is a humanitarian health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 people, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other health and wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.    

DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency.    

Visitwww.desertaidsproject.orgto learn more.    

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Our Collective Wisdom Mobilizes Our Hope

Our Collective Wisdom Mobilizes Our Hope  

Weekend Wrap Message -- Saturday, December 12, 2020, from David Brinkman, Desert AIDS Project CEO  

Mobile Testing and Treatment Thanks to Direct Relief 

STI rates remain the highest they have been for California in three decades, and many in the Coachella Valley continue facing new barriers to care and treatment as COVID continues. But thanks to a generous award from Direct Relief, our Mobile Testing team will regularly bring STI testing and treatment directly to neighborhoods where we know the need is greatest for these services.  

This award also enables us to provide more STI testing and treatment at DAP in our sexual health clinic, staffed by DAP clinicians and following COVID health and safety protocolsDAP is the only California health center among 10 others nationwide that won the Innovation Awards in Community Health: Addressing Infectious Disease in Underserved Communities. You can read more here. 

Dr. Kerkar Distinguished by IDSA  

While COVID continues to complicate healthcare, DAP is taking a leadership position in this Valley, thanks to our medical team specialized in infectious diseases. Dr. Shubha Kerkar was given the top honor in her field when she was elected recently as a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the nation’s leading infectious diseases professional society. Dr. Kerkar helped us write the roadmap created during the worst years of the AIDS crisis, one that we apply today for patient care at DAP. You can read more here

DAP Talks: Volunteers  

Keeping about 200 volunteers rewarded during this time of historic uncertainty seems like it would be challenging, but the mission of DAP inspires so many that Marcie Lerner and Larry Naishtut, our volunteer services coordinators, are in good company when it comes to helping to keep our organization on track. Between the hunt for treasure at Revivals and serving 8,000 DAP patients through a variety of programs, there really is something for everyone if they want to get involved and give back with a gift of their time. You can listen here.  

Vaccinations: Winning Faith, Trust and C …

Vaccinations: Winning Faith, Trust and Credibility  

A look at the history of global pandemics 

By Shubha Kerkar MD, FIDSA, FACP, AAHIVS 

The possibility of control and eradication of the current global pandemic of coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) is now a distinct reality because of two promising vaccines that have shown safe and effective performance in preventing 95 percent of infections in preliminary data of phase 3 trials. 

How will these vaccines work? 

Vaccination prepares the human immune system to combat specific infections. In addition to the very basics, such as barriers to exposure with facial covering/masking, physical distancing and handwashing, vaccination is a powerful tool in the armamentarium of defenses against COVID-19.  

Both the Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines are based on a novel platform using “messenger” RNA to create vaccines (mRNA). They do not use the live virus or even any particle of a virus. They do not affect or interact with our DNA in any way. mRNA never enters the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept.  

The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it is finished using the instructions.  

COVID-19 mRNA vaccines give our cells instructions to make a harmless piece of “spike protein, which is found on the surface of the virus that causes COVID-19. COVID-19 mRNA vaccines are given in the upper arm muscle. Once the instructions (mRNA) are inside the muscle cells, the cells use them to make the protein piece. In a placebo-controlled clinical trial where 30,000 to 40,000 volunteers in vaccinated vs. unvaccinated groups, there was a total of 100 infections, five in the vaccinated group and 95 in the placebo group. All volunteers who received the vaccine experienced no serious side effects, thus proving safety and efficacy.  

What does history tell us? 

In the real world, however, vaccines are only as good as the ability to be accepted by everyone. Winning faith and trust in vaccines depends on the credibility of the doctors, scientists and experts, and their ability to educate and help calm fears.  Once accepted, then the details of how to administer to the entire world population are practical challenges.   

 History tells us that vaccine strategies have successfully eradicated some of the deadliest infections on Earth, including smallpox, polio and measles, in times of scarce resources. The concept of vaccination was first noticed by the famous Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796 when he gave “lymph fluid” obtained from a milkmaid who had cowpox to James Phipps and established that he developed protection from smallpox.   

 In 2020, we celebrated the 40th anniversary of the eradication of smallpox, a deadly disease causing global pandemic for thousands of years. Worldwide vaccination was carried out in an era of no computers, no internet, no easy overseas transportation – all on foot – and simply targeting the worlds population one person at a time.  Of course, now, the challenges are different. 

What are we seeing today? 

Today, as I look around, not everyone is willing to accept vaccination as a silver lining in the dark cloud of this global pandemic. Perhaps there is no clarity, only doubt and mistrust, due to misinformation filtering through the current geopolitical scene, civil conflicts and social media, thus creating confusing layers. 

I remind all to look back in history: When Dr. Jonas Salk discovered the polio vaccine, 70 million mothers stood in line to get their children vaccinated – even before the benefits were confirmed.  Infantile paralysis was a devastating condition seen every year prior to that. Thanks to the polio vaccine – and the trust in that vaccine  today, it is part of childhood vaccination, providing 100 percent effectiveness in preventing polio. 

It is not just us here in the valley, our state or county. We must focus and be part of collaborative international cooperation and the contribution of global intelligence and unite in celebrating this great discovery. We must educate ourselves, gather all the courage and will to educate and counsel each other, and slowly win faith and trust in the possibility of prevailing in this battle against the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Dr. Kerkar is director of infectious diseases at Desert AIDS Project and an infectious disease consultant at Desert Regional Medical Center and Eisenhower Health. For more information on vaccinations visit www.cdc.gov/vaccines. 

Image of DAP care provider

Shubha Kerkar, MD, MS

Physician, FACP, AAHIVS, FIDSA

Shubha has been performing infectious disease consultation since 1991 and has the distinction of having been a part of DAP since 1993 when she joined us as a part-time infectious disease consultant. Her practice is primarily focused on inpatient or hospitalized patients at both Desert Regional Medical Center and Eisenhower Health where she cares for individuals with serious infectious diseases. Once these patients recover and leave the hospital they continue on their path to a healthier life by transitioning to Shubha's office-based skilled management program at DAP. Click here to learn more about Dr. Kerkar.

Dr. Shubha Kerkar: IDSA Fellowship is To …

Dr. Shubha Kerkar: IDSA Fellowship is Top Accolade  

Media Contact: 
Jack Bunting 
(760) 323-2118 
jbunting@desertaidsproject.org 

(Palm Springs, CA) December 10, 2020 -- Shubha KerkarMD, FIDSA, was given the top honor in her field when she was elected recently as a Fellow of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the nation’s leading infectious diseases professional society. This accolade helps shine a spotlight on her decades of service to people with HIV (PWH) in the Coachella Valley, beginning in the early 1990s, when mortality rates were much higher. 

“I am delighted, and I feel appreciative of this recognition,” said Dr. Kerkar. “I recognize that I walk this path of success, together with all, and not alone.” 

Today as COVID presents similar challenges for patients and health care workers to navigate, she continues making a substantial contribution to public healthDr. Kerkar is Director of Infectious Diseases at DAP and Desert Regional Medical Center, and an infectious diseases consultant at Eisenhower Health.  

Dr. Kerkar helped us write the roadmap created during the worst years of the AIDS crisis, one that we apply today for patient care at DAP,” said David Brinkman, CEO. “While COVID continues to complicate healthcare, her expertise in infectious diseases is matched only by her leadership and compassion for others.” 

Fellowship in IDSA is the highest honor in the field of infectious diseases. It is given to those who have achieved professional excellence and provided significant service to the profession.  

“Infectious diseases specialists have trained their entire careers to step up to the plate during a crisis such as the one we face today with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said IDSA President Barbara Alexander, MD, MHS, FIDSA. “ID physicians and scientists are working on the front lines of every aspect of this outbreak, from treating patients to developing and studying diagnostics and therapies to working on vaccines. They are also preparing for the next outbreak and protecting individual and public health.” 

As COVID vaccines are nearing release, Dr. Kerkar is quick to point out that public trust in any vaccination is the first hurdle in widespread adoption. She and her peers play a big role.  

“Winning trust in the vaccines depends on the credibility of the doctorsscientistsand experts who must act now to educate and work to calm fears around safety and efficacy,” said Dr. Kerkar. “Once accepted, then the details of how to administer to the entire world population are practical challenges. 

You can watch Dr. Kerkar describe the early days of HIV when she accepted the 100 Women Award from Barbara Boxer at the 2018 Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards here. 

Applicants for IDSA Fellowship must be nominated by their peers and meet specified criteria that include continuing identification with the field of infectious diseases, national or regional recognition, and publication of their scholarly work. Nominees are reviewed and elected by the IDSA Board of Directors. Fellows of IDSA work in many different settings, including clinical practice, teaching, research, public health and health care administration. You can read more here. 

About the Infectious Diseases Society of America 

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a community of over 12,000 physicians, scientists and public health experts who specialize in infectious diseases. Our mission is to improve the health of individuals, communities, and society by promoting excellence in patient care, education, research, public health, and prevention relating to infectious diseases. 

About DAP Health Center   

DAP Health Center (DAP) is a humanitarian health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 people, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other health and wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.   

DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency.   

Visitwww.desertaidsproject.orgto learn more.   

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DAP Increasing Mobile STI Program Thanks …

DAP Increasing Mobile STI Program Thanks to Direct Relief and The Pfizer Foundation 

(Palm Springs, CA) December 10, 2020 -- STI rates remain the highest they have been for California in three decades, and many in the Coachella Valley continue facing new barriers to care and treatment as COVID continues. But with a recent award from Direct Relief, DAP’s Mobile Testing team will bring STI testing and treatment directly to neighborhoods where the need is greatest for these services.  

DAP will also use the award to provide more STI testing and treatment at the DAP campus in its sexual health clinic, staffed by DAP clinicians and following COVID health and safety protocols. DAP is the only California health center among 10 others nationwide winning the Innovation Awards in Community Health: Addressing Infectious Disease in Underserved Communities.  

“We are grateful to Direct Relief and The Pfizer Foundation for this generous award for our Mobile Testing program,” said David Brinkman, DAP CEO. “Together we can address areas of need in our community for STI testing and treatment that that been complicated by COVID.” 

The award is intended to support innovative approaches to infectious disease education, screening, testing, treatment, and care. The awards program is implemented by Direct Relief and is funded by The Pfizer Foundation. 

"The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing systemic health inequities, resulting in vulnerable patients and their loved ones experiencing even greater hardship," said Caroline Roan, President, The Pfizer Foundation and Chief Sustainability Officer, Pfizer Inc. "We are proud to support Direct Relief and its network of frontline safety-net clinics across the U.S. to break down barriers to good health in underserved communities and increase access to life-saving infectious disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care." 

“These awards are intended in part to allow providers to test and improve new care models and solutions, which is of utmost importance as healthcare is drastically changing due to COVID-19,” said Thomas Tighe, CEO and President of Direct Relief. “We are humbled by the dedication of these largely unheralded safety-net health providers to improve the lives and health of the people they care for.” 

About The Pfizer Foundation 
The Pfizer Foundation is a charitable organization established by Pfizer Inc. It is a separate legal entity from Pfizer Inc. with distinct legal restrictions. The Foundation’s mission is to promote access to quality healthcare, to nurture innovation, and to support the community involvement of Pfizer colleagues. 

About Direct Relief 

A humanitarian organization committed to improving the health and lives of people affected by poverty or emergencies, Direct Relief delivers lifesaving medical resources throughout the world to communities in need—without regard to politics, religion, or ability to pay. For more information, please visit https://www.DirectRelief.org. 

About DAP Health Center 

DAP Health Center (DAP) is a humanitarian health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 people, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other health and wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.  

DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency.  

Visitwww.desertaidsproject.orgto learn more.  

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DAP On World AIDS Day 2020: Hope Begins …

Media Contact: 
Jack Bunting 
(760) 323-2118 
jbunting@desertaidsproject.org 

DAP On World AIDS Day 2020: Hope Begins with Health 

(Palm Springs, CA) December 1, 2020 -- DAP marks World AIDS Day 2020 by remembering the millions we have lost globally to AIDS, and by renewing our commitment to offer care and services that enable people with HIV (PWH) to live their best lives. When COVID arrived, we immediately fortified our HIV care program so that our patients would remain connected to care and receiving specialized services. We also increased options for anyone in our community to access prevention and testing for HIV. You can read more about our COVID Response here. 

Globally, 38 million people today are living with HIV. And since the pandemic began, about 35 million people have died from AIDS-related illnesses. Here in the Coachella Valley, new cases of HIV continue to dramatically outpace other parts of California (CDC). 

Hope Begins with Health is our battle cry as we fight to continue care for PWH, as COVID continues to challenge us like nothing before.  

COVID is presenting unique challenges for PWH, increasing the need for our services.  

They are:  

  • Increased health problems from increased isolation, fear and anxiety, 
  • A higher risk of joblessness, food insecurity, and homelessness. 

 “Our roots are deep from the lessons of compassionate care that the AIDS crisis taught us,” says David Brinkman, CEO. “From those roots we learned the importance of health equity for all and COVID is calling on us to pay those lessons forward. 

Using our knowledge, compassion, and infrastructure for the greater good, we are committed to the dual purpose of continuing to care for our 8,000 clients while also supplying support to all those in our community affected by the pandemic. 
 
New HIV Testing Set-Up on Old Turf 

Palm Springs Revivals, a location steeped in DAP history, will once again serve as the backdrop for bringing people closer to their health. The community will start noticing DAP’s Mobile Testing Van, with staff dispensing anonymous HIV tests that are self-administered at home. Follow up and linkage to care is always offered with testing from DAP, and we are answering our patients calls for additional ways of HIV testing, accessible in more places.  A $10 gift card will be offered with each test. 

Decades ago in the same complex, a group of off-duty medical professionals would meet AIDS patients at night to administer treatments in an era when HIV was still a mystery and conventional healthcare providers in the area were forbidden from treating people with AIDS. This was the beginning of Desert AIDS Project. 

Everyday Heroes 2020: Honoring Valley Leaders 

Each year on World AIDS Day, DAP bestows the title of Everyday Hero to humanitarians in our Valley leading the way to help people thrive with HIV, and to help prevent new infections.  

COVID is not stopping us from honoring the following Everyday Heroes for 2020: Dr. Terri Ketover and Dr. Tom Truhe. 

We honor them for their years of dedicated service and generous contributions of their passion, time and talents to DAP, and thousands of lives touched by their incredible leadership.  

Familiar Worries for Long Term Survivors  

Danny Kopelson serves on DAP’s Client Advisory Board and considers himself as thriving with HIV, although living during a second major pandemic for him is full of reminders of the hardest days of HIV he survived 

When COVID was identified as a deadly virus, that immediately triggered a 40-year-old nightmare,” Danny says. “The bleak memories of AIDS in the 80s and 90s flooded into my head.” 

“Much of the language being used related to COVID is exactly the same as with AIDS,” says Danny.  

Familiar phrases and keywords can include testing positive or negative, antiretrovirals, antibody, resistance, viral loads. 

“This is not an everyday conversation, so hearing it on the news immediately takes me back to the past.” 

As life during COVID becomes a reality, keeping Virtual Visits with doctors and using Zoom meetings for wellness services and groups are keeping life open for Danny and others. 

“I’ve started to feel more hope,” he says. “I’ve gone back to doing yoga, meditating, volunteering and being in regular contact with family and friendsmasked, distanced and with Zoom. 

If you or anyone you know needs information about HIV treatment or prevention, visit daphealth.org. 

About DAP Health Center 

DAP Health Center (DAP) is a humanitarian health center in Palm Springs, CA serving over 8,000 people, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy, and lab. A variety of wraparound services enable patients to experience optimal health, including social services, support groups, alternative therapies, and other health and wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area. 

DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency. 

Visitwww.desertaidsproject.org to learn more. 

More HIV Care with Updated HIVMA Guideli …

More HIV Care with Updated HIVMA Guidelines

Dr. Tulika Singh noticing more equity in HIV care

(Palm Springs, CA) November 12, 2020 – Significant additions to nationally accepted HIV care guidelines will help more patients receive excellent care, and will help stop new infections, according to Dr. Tulika Singh, DAP director of research.

The HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America updated its care guidelines for people with HIV (PWH). DAP’s Dr. Singh was one of only eight co-authors who worked on this important resource that will have a national impact on PWH. This is the first update since 2013.

“It is a one-stop shop for primary care guidance for all HIV clinicians!” says Dr. Singh. “Patients benefit when they get the best care.”

Significant additions in four areas address vital health issues facing PWH, and the teams caring for them. They include:

  • guidance for physicians treating transgender and non-binary patients with HIV,
  • leveraging Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) as part of patient education,
  • care for aging with HIV over 50, and
  • care standards for rapid start antiretroviral treatment.

DAP Health is an established authority in these areas, offering patients access to excellent and compassionate care, regardless of insurance. These updated HIV primary care guidelines used by thousands of clinicians in the U.S. will enable better care for patients, even if they never come to DAP.

“This will help clinicians all over who might need more experience and resources in these areas,” says Dr. Singh.

Transgender and Non-Binary Patients Added

This is the first time these guidelines approach HIV care for transgender and non-binary patients, a group disproportionately affected by HIV and who face extra barriers in healthcare.

“HIV care for transgender and non-binary patients is special, and it needs to be treated so,” says Dr. Singh, who was the second lead for this section of the report.

According to a study by UC Riverside, only 15% of transgender and non-binary individuals reported it was easy to find a provider with sufficient knowledge and experience on issues related to transgender people.

“Education and experience in this area are helpful to reduce bias, and that is important,” says, Dr. Singh. “We want to establish trust and enable transgender and non-binary patients to be fully engaged in their care.”

U=U and Rapid Start ART

Other important affirmations affecting health outcomes for PWH include treatment as prevention, starting antiretroviral therapy (ART) as soon after an HIV diagnosis as possible, and aging with HIV.

Even though effective HIV treatment reduces the level of HIV to "undetectable" levels and makes PWH incapable of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners, many clinicians are not sharing this information with PWH. These guidelines address U=U as well as the stigma it can prevent.

According to the update:

“Clinicians should emphasize that adherence to antiretrovirals not only improves the patient’s health but prevents HIV transmission to others. Undetectable = Untransmittable messaging is welcomed and encouraged by communities with HIV and should be part of routine messaging in the clinic as a means to mitigate stigma. The primary reason for treatment failure, particularly among patients who take initial regimens, is suboptimal adherence to care or treatment regimens.”

Dr. Singh says how quickly patients start ART also affects transmission rates and points to why doctors haven’t been as effective they’d like in stopping new cases.

“Despite having extensive experience in HIV treatment and care, caregivers struggle to reduce high HIV prevalence and rising HIV incidence rates, due to delays in starting ART,” Dr. Singh says. “This is due to previous protocols and practicing traditional HIV medicine.”

DAP recently won designation as a Rapid ART Implementation Site, standing with just 10 other healthcare organizations in the U.S. The Award for Special Projects Of National Significance was won in a competitive grant process and is bestowed by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Read more here.

About Desert AIDS Project

DAP Health (DAP) is a humanitarian healthcare organization in Palm Springs, CA offering a combination of medical, dental, counseling, social services, support groups, alternative therapies, in-house pharmacy and lab, and other health and wellness services. DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post-Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP’s Get Tested Coachella Valley campaign, the nation’s first region-wide free HIV testing and access to care initiative, was recognized by the White House for helping to bring about an AIDS-free future. DAP has earned a “Four Star” rating from Charity Navigator for the twelfth consecutive year – landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that we exceed industry standards in terms of our financial health, accountability, and transparency.

For more information, visit www.desertaidsproject.org

About U=U & Prevention Access Campaign

Prevention Access Campaign is a health equity initiative to end the dual epidemics of HIV and HIV-related stigma by empowering people with and vulnerable to HIV with accurate and meaningful information about their social, sexual, and reproductive health. Find out more here.

Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) is a growing global community of HIV advocates, activists, researchers, and over 990 Community Partners from 102 countries uniting to clarify and disseminate the revolutionary but largely unknown fact that people living with HIV who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV.  

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