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DAP Health Rounds Out Its Fundraising Te …

DAP Health Rounds Out Its Fundraising Team 

 As seen in Desert Charities News 

 

With two new hires, DAP Health enriches its development department just in time for the Coachella Valley’s season of giving.  

Chief Development Officer Cortney Weir joins the advocacy-based non-profit after nearly 30 years at such organizations as the American Heart Association, the Arthritis Foundation, Best Buddies, and most recently, the California Southland Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association. 

For his newly created role, Assistant Chief of Philanthropy and Presidential Priorities Chris Boone recently relocated to Palm Springs from Los Angeles. Boone comes to DAP Health having spent time at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Los Angeles Youth Network, The People Concern, and most recently, the National Parks Conservation Association. 

“Removing barriers to care requires financial resources, which requires hiring top fundraising talent,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman. “Cortney and Chris are the best of the best in the field of philanthropy. Together, I have no doubt we will fulfill our mission to bring wellness to our valley by providing health equity to all.” 

Neither Weir nor Boone are new to the desert. 

In 1984, at the age of 18, Weir moved from her native San Francisco to Palm Desert, where she and her roommate were the only two women living in a 10-unit apartment complex inhabited by gay male couples of various ages. “Those dear men really took me and Elizabeth under their wings,” says Weir. “I remember we couldn’t afford a Christmas tree, and suddenly, a Christmas tree appeared. If we were dating young men we should not be dating, they would chase them off. Whatever we needed, they would provide.”  

When those same men became sick within a year, it was Cortney and her roommate’s turn to provide for them, going so far as to drive them to appointments at the original, tiny Vella Road offices of Desert AIDS Project, as DAP Health was formerly known. 

“I remember taking people to the hospital and having them be turned away because they were living with HIV/AIDS,” Weir recalls. “I remember calling their mothers to say, ‘Your son is dying,’ and having them reply, ‘My son died for me a long time ago.’ I was in shock. My mother would have crawled over broken glass for me — and she was with me many times when one of my friends was incoherently calling for his mom. She’d hold their hand and say, ‘I’m here, honey. I’m here.’  Back then, the only comfort we had was one another and Desert AIDS Project. For me, coming to DAP Health is coming home.” 

Born and raised in Seattle, Boone has been a longtime visitor to Palm Springs. Speaking to his role and to DAP Health’s purpose, Boone — who served as a board member of the Human Rights Campaign for six years — says, “It was honestly a unicorn of an opportunity. To be able to take what I’ve learned at other organizations I’ve worked at or volunteered with and apply it to a mission I’m so passionate about was very appealing.” 

While Weir wasn’t looking to leave her previous employer, all it took was a campus tour led by Brinkman to convince her. “David is an impressive leader and visionary,” she says. “He’s so good at painting a picture of where he wants to go — what’s been achieved, what’s possible. And he’s right here! There’s nobody he has to answer to in Chicago, Miami, or wherever. Trust me, I asked around. Everyone said, ‘Seriously, DAP Health and David Brinkman are the real deal.’” 

Boone will focus on DAP Health’s major benefactors. “David saw the need for someone to specifically do this work,” he says. “My biggest task, but an opportunity I relish, is getting to know the organization’s dedicated donors — their passion and personal story that bring them to support the organization. There are so many generous people in the desert. Some are currently supporters, but many we still need to meet and introduce to our work.”  

For Weir, the biggest hurdle is time. “I can be an impatient person,” she says with a chuckle. “I want everybody to know — now! — that while we remain very respectful to the history of this organization, what it’s meant to the community, and whom we’ve served, the impact we can have on an even larger group of community members is very real. Donors are going to be very interested in what we’re building over here at DAP Health. Once we’re done with the next phase of our growth, people are simply going to be blown away.” 

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.” 

WELCOMING WELLNESS AT PALM SPRINGS PRIDE

WELCOMING WELLNESS AT PALM SPRINGS PRIDE 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

DAP Health had an elevated presence at this year’s Pride weekend. Held November 3-5, 2022, attendees at the annual celebration of the LGBTQ+ community were introduced to the extensive programs and services offered by the organization and its partners. In fact, DAP Health’s entire participation in Pride was predicated on showcasing the breadth of its healthcare services to the public. “DAP Health is opening the aperture a little bit wider to the community's understanding that DAP Health is healthcare,” said Steven Henke, DAP Health director of brand marketing. 

“The weekend was a huge success,” Henke continued. “This was the first time DAP Health created a comprehensive pavilion space that invited the community into wellness.” The pavilion offered free programs throughout the weekend that covered a wide range of topics, from yoga and speed friending to sexual wellness and recovery, incorporating panel discussions and conversations with partner organizations including Planned Parenthood, Queer Works, Brothers of the Desert, and the L-Fund.   

The pavilion was a community effort. “We couldn't have done it without the people who volunteered to be on the panels and lead yoga and to do all those things,” said Henke. “It was remarkable. We had an opportunity to have a lot of meaningful conversations that taught us some important truths during Pride, and it speaks volumes about the talent and the commitment of the DAP Health employees who were willing to donate their weekend and the weeks leading up to the event to create this beautiful expression of Pride.” 

In addition, DAP Health’s community health team distributed over 800 life-saving fentanyl testing strips, 17 doses of Narcan (the nasal inhalant that reverses opioid overdoses), and 45 HIV self-test kits. The mobile clinic conducted 22 STI tests, while community partner Riverside County Department of Public Health administered 500 MPX and 200 flu vaccinations.  

But healthcare extends far beyond the medical, as evidenced by both the signs the DAP Health team carried in the signature parade and the programming at the pavilion. “We are advocating for equitable access to healthcare, including mental health, recovery, and harm reduction,” said Henke. “We were really inviting people to understand that healthcare at DAP Health is so much more than they thought.” 

“There are so many people who still think we only provide one service,” continued Henke. “I think the beautiful thing about being at Pride — having the pavilion, and then having our team marching down Palm Canyon, holding those signs — is that we were able to show the community what we mean when we say that DAP Health is an advocacy-based healthcare organization, what we mean when we say we are fighting for healthcare equity for the LGBTQ+ community, what we mean when we say we're expanding access so that more people can experience wellness.” 

U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Se …

U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra Visits DAP Health’s Palm Springs Headquarters 

October 28, 2022

As part of his tour of Southern California — and upon the invitation of Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz — U.S. Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra (the first Latino to hold the office) visited the Palm Springs headquarters of DAP Health on the morning of Friday, October 28, 2022. 

The tour encompassed both the Annette Bloch CARE Building and the Barbara Keller LOVE Building, which together house not only administration offices but primary care and dental clinics, the Sexual Wellness Clinic, and the Marc Byrd Behavioral Health Clinic. 

Following the informal walk-through, DAP Health CEO David Brinkman moderated a roundtable discussion in the non-profit’s board room, which focused on the top five health equity priorities shared by HHS and DAP, all of which are of urgent concern to the local LGBTQ+ community: ending the pandemic, reducing health care costs, expanding access to care, tackling health disparities, and strengthening behavioral health. 

Speaking specifically to barriers that prevent community members from accessing health care, stakeholders were unanimous in highlighting such issues as a widely diverse population (from newly arrived retirees from across the country to migrant farm workers living in Mexico), the lack of efficient public transportation (a unique hindrance in such a large geographical area that extends from Palm Springs to the Eastern Coachella Valley cities of Indio, Thermal, Oasis, Mecca, and North Shore), our region’s higher prevalence of HIV and MPX, and the challenges of building relationships with people who are still unaware of DAP Health and the wide array of wraparound services it offers. 

In thanking Secretary Becerra for accepting his invitation, Congressman Dr. Ruiz voiced his appreciation for the Secretary showing this community that it mattered not only to him and his department, but to the president of the United States, and to his administration. 

“It was an honor to host Secretary Becerra here in the 36th District to discuss mental health care services in our communities,” he said. “Our region faces a physician shortage crisis, and we have an increased need for mental health care services, especially after the pandemic. That is why today, I’m so glad we were able to bring local stakeholders together to collaborate with the county and local clinics like DAP Health for a discussion on how we can bring home necessary federal resources to expand access to care in our region.” 

“All of us at DAP Health are deeply indebted to Congressman Dr. Ruiz for extending this invitation — and to Secretary Becerra for immediately accepting it,” said Brinkman. “We are obviously very proud of our facilities and of our efforts and successes, both past and present.” 

Secretary Becerra expressed how impressed he was with DAP Health — officials of which have travelled to the White House and to Africa — and the fact that the organization treats its patients not just as patients, but as family members. “What DAP Health is doing is knocking people’s socks off,” he said, adding, “I want in. I want to help. If I have money, I’m gonna send it your way.” 

The Honorable Lisa Middleton — who as mayor of Palm Springs is the first openly transgender person to serve in that civic role in California — spoke of the dangerous politicization of trans health care and the need to protect medical professionals who care for members of that community. “This administration is the best we’ve ever had,” she commented, to which Becerra replied, “We don’t shy away from this issue.” 

Innercare Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jonathan Slone, in referring explicitly to behavioral health, said our current number of available professionals locally is inadequate to deal with present demand, and that said demand is just “the tip of the iceberg.”  

Palm Springs City Council member Christy Holstege not only spoke to the contradiction inherent in Palm Springs — its world-renowned wealth and glamor mask some of the most extreme poverty in the nation — but commended DAP Health for so generously sharing the expertise it has earned in dealing with the HIV epidemic for the last 40 years, and for stepping up on behalf of the entire community as a powerful force against both COVID-19 and MPX.” 

Brinkman was not only very happy with how the visit and subsequent dialogue unfolded but stressed how important it was for DAP Health to invite others to the table. “Community partners and city and federal leaders spoke passionately about our region’s unmet mental health needs,” he said. “What’s working? Building mental health safety nets through creative collaborations that address housing, substance use, employment, healthcare, and mental health. When we join forces and approach care in a diverse manner, our effectiveness increases. It’s through diversity that our community heals and evolves. Of the utmost importance is for none of us to ever forget that we’re all in this together. If our joint advocacy is to result in true health equity for all, we must work alongside one another, from the grassroots all the way to the national level. 

ATTENDEES 

 

From WH/USG 

From DAP Health 

Invited Guests 

Xavier Becerra, Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 

 

Jeffrey Reynoso, HHS Regional Director, Region IX 

 

Dr. Raul Ruiz, Congressman (D-CA-36)  

 

CDR Michelle Sandoval-Rosario, Region IX PACE Program Director, OASH  

David Brinkman, CEO 

 

CJ Tobe, Director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness Services 

 

Patrick Jordan, Board Chair 

 

Scott Nevins, Board Member 

 

The Honorable Lisa Middleton, Mayor of the City of Palm Springs 

 

Christy Holstege, Palm Springs City Council Member 

 

Dr. Jonathan Slone, Senior VP and Chief Medical Officer of Innercare 

  

Kim Saruwatari, Director of Public Health, Riverside University Health System  

 

Dr. Christopher G. Fichtner, 

Director of Public Health and  

Interim Chair of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, UC Riverside 

Speed Friending, Sexual Health, Recovery …

Speed Friending, Sexual Health, Recovery and More: DAP Health is Bringing it to Palm Springs Pride 

Words by Charles Sanchez 

Palm Springs Pride has a long, fabulous tradition of celebrating diversity and community, and this year, DAP Health’s Pride Pavilion will be right in the heart of it. The pavilion will be located at 205 S. Palm Canyon Drive at the intersection of Palm Canyon and Arenas Drive, and will be open Friday, November 4 at 11:00 am through Sunday, November 6 at 5:00 pm. 

To foster connection and camaraderie this year, DAP Health has engaged the talents of Palm Springs’ own, the glamorous Ms. Patty Cakes to host a little get together game at Pride she likes to call “Speed Friending.” The game will commence at 5pm on Friday, November 4th, just in time to get you ready for a fabulous and friendly weekend. 

“Like speed dating,” Patty said, “it’s about meeting someone briefly for a minute, maybe two minutes, and then moving on to the next person.” It’s Patty’s hope that people from different cliques in the community will break down barriers and form new connections. “There’s all these little subsets within our community,” she said. “That’s what I love about pride; we get to be with each other together.” 

But why speed friending? “Dating is a charged word that comes with a lot of bias and baggage,” Patty explained. “But after all, in one way or another we are ‘dating’ everyone in our lives: our barista, the checkout girl, hell I’m even dating my new puppy!” She went on to say when the word dating is unweaponized, it simply means being in a relationship with those around us. “And by that definition,” she said, “during pride weekend, we are all dating each other!” 

Speed Friending is only one little nugget of deliciousness that DAP Health will be providing. The Pride Pavilion will offer a little something for everyone: yoga, recovery meetings, Raw sex talk, country line dancing, sound bath meditation and more. 

Steven Henke, Director of Brand Marketing for DAP Health said, “The Health Pavilion is going to offer the gift of wellness, free, exactly where our community is that weekend.” People will be able to walk into the pavilion and see exactly who DAP Health is and what is offered. They’ll experience the community health team’s approach to sexual wellness and harm reduction for every section of the LGBTQ+ family.  

“They’ll also be able to see the other non-profits that we partner with that we are inviting into the space,” Henke said, “like Planned Parenthood, Brothers of the Desert, the L Fund, and the LGBTQ Center of the Desert.” Riverside County will also be there, providing Monkeypox vaccinations on site.  

“I would like to invite everyone to stop by the Pavilion,” Patty Cakes said, “because Pride has a party aspect and a social aspect, but there’s also the opportunity to learn safe sex, health, mental health.” She concluded, “I want to interject that energy--learning and living--into my best gay life!” 

Brothers of the Desert: Our Rhythm, Our …

Our Rhythm, Our Power: Wellness Meeting Focuses on Black Gay Men’s Health  

Words by Lorenzo Taylor

The Brothers of the Desert know that “wellness” is much more than just taking care of physical health.  For the past four years this local Black gay men’s group has organized a one-day meeting with expert presentations on physical, spiritual, and mental health issues of importance to Black gay men.  The theme of this year’s Wellness Summit is “Our Rhythm, Our Power: Living Our Best Black Gay Lives” and it will be held on Saturday, November 12 at the Margaritaville Resort. The day-long event features innovative workshops and panel discussions on a diverse range of topics, such as spirituality, relationships, mental health, aging, trauma of racism, prevention, physical health, Black LGBTQ history, healthy sex, creative expression, financial planning, and more.   

The event has grown over the years and attracts participants locally and from around the country. Brothers of the Desert board president Tim Vincent says “We are so proud to bring these dynamic speakers together to share their expertise with our community. There will be opportunities to learn, connect and meet new people while attending the workshops.” Participants will get an opportunity to engage with the twenty featured speakers informally at a pre-Summit reception on Friday evening. 

Actor Alton Fitzgerald White, who starred in the Lion King on Broadway, will be the keynote speaker and will set an upbeat tone based on his best-selling book My Pride: Mastering Life’s Daily Performance.  Medical topics will be covered by four practicing physicians, Dr. Leo Moore, Dr. Alex del Rosario, Dr. Curly L. Bonds, and Dr. Cliff Wynne and there will be blood pressure checks and an onsite pop-up Monkeypox (MPX) vaccination clinic.  But the Summit will go far beyond these physical concerns.  A favorite Summit speaker, Bishop Yvette Flunder, will return to electrify attendees with her spirit-filled affirmation of LGBTQ+ lives within the Christian faith. There will also be opportunities to choose workshops that explore how touch, music, and writing can heal the wounded spirit. Black gay novelist Larry Duplechan and other published authors will discuss how expressing life experiences through writing has been transformative and healing.  Financial health topics will be covered by Chauncey Thompson of Barton CPA, in response to past participants’ desire to reduce stress around having adequate resources for living and retirement.  

DAP Health is once again an official sponsor of the Summit.  It will have staff at an information table at the meeting and has partnered with Brothers of the Desert to provide a little taste of the Summit in their Palm Springs Pride pavilion on November 6th.  Motivational speaker Dr. Stephan Scoggins and spiritual leader Tony Bradford will do mini-presentations to discuss boosting one’s self-esteem and developing one’s own spiritual practice. Tim Vincent says “We appreciate this opportunity to showcase some of the talented speakers who bring a different life experience to their work and to strengthen our enduring collaboration with DAP Health.” 

Attendance at the Summit is free and open to all who have an interest in Black gay men’s health.  In addition, some of the Summit speakers are offering special live performances to the community during the weekend.  On Friday, November 11 comedic actor Ralph Cole Jr. and soul/folk/reggae singer Nhojj will perform at the Palm Springs Cultural Center and on Sunday, November 13 Alton Fitzgerald White will sing Broadway and Disney songs in a concert at the Palm Springs United Methodist Church.  Full details, as well as registration for the Summit and for the community events can be found on their website www.brothersofthedesert.org. 

A Brief Timeline of LGBTQ+ History and S …

A Brief Timeline of LGBTQ+ History and Six Local Trailblazers, Past and Present  

Words By Ellen Bluestein 

LGBTQ+ history has been filled with great moments of victory along with difficult setbacks.  And while the Stonewall Riots in 1969 are generally regarded as the birth of the modern-day LGBTQ+ movement, there were those who were laying the foundation long before.  The Society for Human Rights, the first documented gay rights organization, was founded in 1924 followed by the formation of the Mattachine Society and the lesbian right organization, Daughters of Bilitis, in 1950 and 1955, respectively. 

From the hanging of gay men and women in the 1600s to the beating death of Matthew Shepard in 1998, LGBTQ+ history sadly involves persecution, violence, and unrelenting bigotry. In 1953, an executive order by President Eisenhower banned homosexuals from working for the federal government calling them a security risk. The American Psychiatric Association deemed homosexuality a sociopathic personality disturbance in its diagnostic manual; a designation that was not removed until 1973.  

In politics, however, great strides have been made. Illinois became the first state to decriminalize homosexuality in 1961, while in 1982, Wisconsin became the first state to outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation. Massachusetts was the first state to recognize same-sex marriage in 2004 followed by federal recognition in all 50 states in 2015. In 1974 Kathy Kozachenko became the first openly gay LGBTQ+ American elected to public office followed by Elaine Noble in 1975 and Harvey Milk in 1978. Most recently, Pete Buttigieg, the first openly gay Cabinet member, was confirmed by the senate as Secretary of Transportation. 

The AIDS crisis that began in the 1980s was a watershed moment in LGBTQ+ history. Referred to as the “gay plague,” the lack of response from the Reagan administration mobilized gay rights activists and organizations across the country and was the catalyst for establishing Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health.) However, by the time President Reagan publicly acknowledged the disease, four years after it was first identified and countless lives later, it was already a pandemic.   

It was President Obama who posthumously awarded Harvey Milk the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor and who signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act into law. Under his administration, the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” laws were repealed ending the ban on openly gay men and women from serving in the military. 

While progress towards equality has been made nationwide, there’s still more to be done. In honor of LGBTQ+ History Month, DAP Health recognizes six local trailblazers, past and present, who have advanced the political, charitable, cultural, and social landscape of the Coachella Valley. 

Steve Chase 

Famed Rancho Mirage interior designer Steve Chase was instrumental in establishing Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health) in response to the AIDS crisis in the early 80s.  He served as a volunteer, donor, and board member with the fledgling organization that has since become a leader in HIV/AIDS care.  The organization held its first fundraiser, The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards, named in his honor, in 1994, a year after his death from AIDS-related complications. Today, “The Chase,” as it’s now known, is one of the valley’s most esteemed events, raising millions of dollars for direct client services at DAP Health.  

Gail Christian & Lucy DeBardelaben 

Founders of the Palm Springs Women’s Jazz and Blues Festival and Association, Christian and DeBardelaben have been instrumental in supporting female jazz and blues musicians who traditionally struggle for recognition and employment. Together the women have received numerous awards including the 2013 Spirit Award, Palm Springs Pride, the 2016 Community Service Award, L-Fund Palm Springs, the 2018 Community Service Award, Palm Springs Human Rights Commission, and the 2019 Harvey Milk Leadership Award. By creating opportunities for women musicians, Christian and DeBardelaben, are ensuring that female artists are recognized for their contributions to their genres, compensated fairly, and treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. 

Christine Jorgensen 

1950’s actress Christine Jorgensen was the first person in the United States known for having sex reassignment surgery.  After serving in World War II, Jorgensen went to Denmark where she began her transition and returned an instant celebrity. In 1976, Jorgensen, who had written a book on her experience and had become a vocal advocate of transgender rights, was invited to speak at the Palm Desert Women’s Club. Jorgensen, who died in 1989, once said, “The problem must not lie in sleeping pills and suicides that look like accidents, or in jail sentences, but rather in life and the freedom to live it.” 

Maggie Raible 

Maggie Raible is the current board chair of the L-Fund, an all-volunteer, non-profit organization that provides emergency financial assistance to Coachella Valley cis and trans lesbians.  Founded by lesbians for lesbians and the only organization of its kind in the country, the L-Fund promises its donors that all funding stays in the community. With Raible’s guidance, the L-Fund is expanding its areas of service and looking to franchise the charity nationwide.  Receiving assistance is a simple process that happens quickly. “In just a few hours, somebody can have that relief,” Raible said. “And just like that, the gorilla on their shoulders has been lifted off by a whole community.” 

George Zander 

A longtime political activist, Zander was indefatigable when it came to advancing gay rights in Palm Springs. He was a field organizer for the statewide LGBTQ+ rights group Equality California and advocated for marriage equality, safety for LGBTQ+ students and healthcare.  In addition to his work for the LGBTQ+ community, Zander, who was a past chair of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, was also passionate about helping the homeless and undocumented residents in the Coachella Valley. Zander died in 2015, six weeks after he and his husband Chris were brutally attacked in what was later ruled a hate crime. “His passion and strength have paved the road for many of us to follow, and build from,” Chris Zander said. 

DAP Health Connects with Community for N …

DAP Health Connects with Community for National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day 

Words by Charles Sanchez 

Saturday, October 15 is National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day (NLAAD), a day to raise HIV awareness for the Latinx community and encourage testing, prevention, and care. DAP Health continues our mission to advocate for the health needs of all our citizens, and we are passionate about addressing the specific challenges facing our Latinx community. 

Latinxs are among the most vulnerable when it comes to HIV. The CDC (Centers for Disease Control)) estimates that among the 34,800 new cases reported in 2019, 29% were to Latinxs. In Riverside County, in 2020, 50% of those living with HIV are Hispanic, and 22% of new cases are in Latino men.  

C.J. Tobe, Director of Community Health, and Sexual Wellness at DAP Health, spoke to the ways DAP Health is making strides to bring information and services to Latinxs in our area. “In July, we opened a new sexual wellness clinic in Indio that’s completely free, including HIV appointments and PrEP (Pre-exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-exposure Prophylaxis) services.” The new clinic was opened when it was realized that many clients were having to drive 30-40 minutes each way to DAP Health’s main Palm Springs campus, and a majority were Latinxs.  

“We just opened July 11, so it's very new,” Tobe says. New, but the community response has been remarkable. In the first few weeks between the clinic opening and the end of August, DAP Health was able to get 20 patients started on PrEP and serve 200 patient visits in August alone. “It is already booming; we have also had OB-GYN doctors referring their female patients who are pregnant to get treated for STIs. It was the right move for the community, opening that clinic.” DAP Health has made services in the sexual wellness clinics completely free, eliminating that cost barrier.  

“DAP Health opened the clinic in the middle of Latino community. Eighty percent of our staff is bilingual. All our informational brochures are in Spanish and English,” To make things easier to navigate for Spanish-speaking patients, all signage at the Indio location is in both English and Spanish, and all forms are as well. 

Moreover, DAP Health tackles the needs of undocumented people who may not speak English and may be distrustful or baffled by the healthcare system. “We have staff that have gone through the process themselves. When a new patient comes to us with these challenges, we immediately connect them with those life-experienced staff to establish trust and help that patient.” 

To mark National Latino AIDS Awareness Day, DAP Health is sending out mobile units to the San Jacinto college resource fair. Tobe explains, “we’ll be providing HIV testing, STI testing and a whole lot of outreach at the college.” DAP Health will also be on the other side of the Coachella Valley. “We’re also going to be giving out free HIV self-test kits at the Revivals store in Indio, so those are two big events that we’re doing on the 15th.” The tests include a phone number to help with questions and support, staffed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. 

This is the 19th National Latinx AIDS Awareness Day,” Tobe looks at this as a way for DAP Health to let the community know that “we are here, and we want to listen to you.”  DAP Health asks what the organization can we do to make things easier for the community. Whether it is language translation or transportation to the clinic. DAP Health wants to know what it can do to help you live your healthiest life. 

Tobe believes that one of the most important things DAP Health has done is hire a community health team, which includes a trans-identified community worker, and Latino and Latina members of the team. “We've expanded access for anybody and everybody, but specifically Latinos, to be able to access sexual wellness services, HIV prevention methods, whether it's testing or whether it's PrEP, free of cost and also free of judgment.” 

OCTOBER IS LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH

OCTOBER IS LGBTQ+ HISTORY MONTH 

Words by Ellen Bluestein 

 

October 1st marks the start of LGBTQ+ History Month across the country. Founded in 1994 by Missouri high school history teacher Rodney Wilson, LGBTQ+ History Month celebrates the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community as well as the history of gay rights in America and honors those who are role models in the movement.  Established in conjunction with Coming Out Day (October 11), the observance builds community, champions LGBTQ+ causes, and makes a civil rights statement about the important contributions the LGBTQ+ community has made in ameliorating human rights. 

 

According to the Equality Forum, the non-profit organization whose mission is to advance LGBTQ+ civil rights nationally and internationally, the LGBTQ+ community is the only community worldwide that is not taught its history at home, in public schools, or in religious institutions.  

 

In Palm Springs, LGBTQ+ History Month is not as widely observed as in other cities around the country as it precedes Pride Weekend. “Unfortunately, here in Palm Springs, we don't do a lot because our Pride is the first weekend of November so we're kind of overwhelmed with getting ready for that,” said David Gray, co-founder of the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert. “But there are organizations who do some [LGBTQ+ History Month programming], if they're not terribly involved in Pride.” 

 

That doesn’t make LGBTQ+ History Month any less meaningful. “It’s important because people continually come out whether they're older or whether they're younger. and they don’t really know a lot of the history,” said Gray. “I think it's interesting and important for us to not forget what people did to make the Palm Springs area as the welcoming place it is for gays and lesbians. It didn't always used to be that way.” 

 

While books have been written about Palm Springs LGBTQ+ history including Palm Springs Babylon: Sizzling Stories from the Desert Playground of the Stars, A City Comes Out: How Celebrities Made Palm Springs a Gay and Lesbian Paradise, and Dinah! Three Decades of Sex, Golf, and Rock ‘n’ Roll,” Gray finds them inaccurate as they are based on rumors and innuendo and not facts. “There's no documentation,” Gray said. “It's just one person's opinions and stories of people in Palm Springs the way they wanted to see it, the way they heard it, or...embellished a bit to make a better story.” 

 

The mission of the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert is to collect, preserve and share the LGBTQ+ history of the Greater Palm Springs Area within the Coachella Valley. “We live in a community where people constantly move here or travel here, and they didn't really grow up here and they haven't been involved in the community and don't really know who these individuals are and what they did,” said Gray. “And it's really hard to rebuild because people don't think about keeping their history.”   

 

A pivotal moment of that history is, of course, the AIDS epidemic.  “When the AIDS crisis came, that affected a lot of the residents who had moved here from other places,” said Gray. “Things like Desert AIDS Project and Desert Regional Medical Center began treating people.” They [Desert Regional Medical Center] opened an AIDS ward and then an AIDS hospice. All those kinds of things became much more public, and people began to try to figure out what to do about it, just like they did everywhere in the country.” 

 

“Two of our famous residents -- Liberace and Rock Hudson -- impacted AIDS nationwide and worldwide,” Gray added.  Their homosexuality wasn’t acknowledged until just prior to or after their deaths but they had been long associated with Palm Springs.  After they both died, people like Elizabeth Taylor and others began AIDS foundations which gained national attention. “AIDS got on the radar and that forced the Reagan administration to begin to acknowledge it,” Gray said.  “Doris Day was a very good friend of Rock Hudson, and she was known to Middle America. Before that, I don't think Middle America really thought they knew anyone [with AIDS]. They just thought that this is a bunch of people in New York and San Francisco getting sick.”  

 

At Desert AIDS Project (now DAP Health), a group of grass-roots volunteers joined together in 1984 to respond to this never-before-seen disease. While the government and the health care system initially ignored the growing crisis, DAP Health stepped in and began implementing programs and services to support those in the Coachella Valley affected by HIV and AIDS.  Over the years, as testing and treatment became available, DAP Health continued to grow and adapt to meet the changing needs of its clients.  Today, it is a federally qualified health center whose goal is to improve the overall health of the entire community, especially the disenfranchised, by providing comprehensive, culturally competent, quality primary and preventative health care services. 

 

DAP Health continues to add to the rich legacy of Palm Springs’ LGBTQ+ History. A history that is now proudly and properly being preserved by the LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert so that the valley residents can understand the extent of the contributions and impact made by the members of the LGBTQ+ community in making Palm Springs what it is today.