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4 Coachella Valley leaders call for incr …

4 Coachella Valley leaders call for increase in monkeypox vaccines to protect LGBTQ+ and other vulnerable residents

Palm Springs, CA – Coachella Valley health and community leaders are raising awareness at the state level about an inadequate allocation of monkeypox vaccines being distributed to serve one of the region's most vulnerable populations: the LGBTQ+ community.

DAP Health and the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation recently joined forces to create a full-page advertisement in the Sacramento Bee that is designed to get state legislators' attention. Both the City of Palm Springs and Desert Care Network are featured in the ad as community partners supporting the effort.

Scheduled for publication Sunday, August 14, the ad urgently calls for an immediate increase of vaccines for LGBTQ+ residents to prevent further spread of the virus. As of Wednesday, August 10, Riverside County Public Health had identified about 70 cases of monkeypox that were either confirmed or under investigation in the Coachella Valley -- twice as many as the prior week.

While anyone can contract monkeypox, early infections since the outbreak in May primarily have been among men who have sex with men. Gay and lesbian Californians account for 91.1 percent of monkeypox cases in the state, while residents who identify as bisexual are 5.9 percent, according to the California Department of Public Health. In Palm Springs, where LGBTQ+ residents comprise 40 percent to 60 percent of the population, a large part of the community remains at-risk.

The ad also informs newspaper readers that the Palm Springs area is a popular destination for thousands of LGBTQ+ visitors each year. More than 30 LGBTQ+ events have been planned for this summer.

“As the state calibrates its response to the monkeypox outbreak, I urge them to give due consideration to the unique risk factors that will predispose regions, such as the Coachella Valley, to higher levels of exposure and infection from monkeypox,” said David Brinkman, DAP Health CEO. “At present, the state has focused its response on a region’s confirmed monkeypox cases as well as the number of early syphilis cases among men. These metrics are lagging indicators. They don’t capture where the exposure is occurring.  Because the data is captured at an individual’s local clinic, these metrics simply capture where an individual resides. This does nothing to prevent exposure or infection from occurring in the first place. Focusing on regions with high-risk factors is necessary to end this outbreak.”

The Biden Administration has declared monkeypox as a national public health emergency, and Gov. Gavin Newsom recently recognized it as a state emergency. However, because the current vaccine distribution model prioritizes large cities, and the national vaccine supply is limited, Coachella Valley communities are receiving far fewer doses than needed. For example, DAP Health, a leader in the local monkeypox response, has administered 648 vaccine doses to date. It expects delivery of another 292 doses this week. The Desert Healthcare District and Foundation has not received any vaccine doses.

“As a healthcare district, one of the most important things we did early on during our COVID-19 response was to remove every barrier that prevents equitable access to prevention and care,” said Conrado Bárzaga, Desert Healthcare District and Foundation CEO. “That’s what we’re called to do without judgment or stigma. The lack of awareness by the state about our community and how it's vulnerable to the monkeypox virus is a tremendous barrier. We have to change it.”

Media requests can be sent to Will Dean with the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation, wdean@dhcd.org, and Steven Henke with DAP Health at SHenke@daphealth.org.

About the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation

The Desert Healthcare District is a local government agency formed in 1948. Its mission is to achieve optimal health at all stages of life for all District residents. The District includes more than 400,000 residents and encompasses the entire Coachella Valley. The District and Desert Healthcare Foundation, together, are one of the largest funders in the valley. These funds are used to assist residents — especially the underserved — in accessing vitally needed resources, such as primary and behavioral healthcare. Learn more at dhcd.org.

Learn more about DAP Health.

Walk Out Loud at Desert AIDS Walk 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

An Enviable Track Record 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Community Impact 

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

In 2021 alone: 

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

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

COVID-19 

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

Monkeypox 

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

DAP Health’s Desert AIDS Walk Community Partners 

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

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

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

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

Desert AIDS Walk 2022 Sponsors  

Presenting Sponsor: Desert Care Network 

Health and Wellness Village Sponsor: Walgreens  

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

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

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

For Participants 

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

For Sponsors  

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

About DAP Health 

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

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

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

Visitwww.daphealth.orgto learn more.      

NEWS RELEASE 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

Contact: Steven Henke 

shenke@daphealth.org 

612 310 3047 

 

Monkeypox

Anyone can get monkeypox.  It is important we do not create stigma during this current outbreak 

Transmission of monkeypox can occur with skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, but it is not an STI  
 

Since May 13, cases of monkeypox have been reported to The World Health Organization (WHO) from 12 nonendemic countries. The first U.S. case of 2022 was reported last week in Massachusetts. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has identified nine cases of monkeypox across seven U.S. states, officials said Thursday: California, Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. “The virus is related to smallpox, but is far less lethal,” says Dr. David Morris, DAP Health Chief Medical Officer  

“I believe it is very important that we don’t use the current outbreak to cause stigma toward the LGBTQ communities,” says Dr. Shubha Kerkar, Director of Infectious Diseases at DAP Health. Dr. Kerkar, explains “The reason the current outbreak was first reported in gay and bisexual men is because the diagnosis happened at sexual wellness clinics.” Transmission of monkeypox is neutral to sexual orientation.  

“In some cases, monkeypox lesions can look like herpes or syphilis,” explains Dr. Kerkar. “It is important to clarify that monkeypox is not a sexually transmitted disease. It can spread through skin-to-skin contact, including sexual contact, when someone has an active rash.”  Individuals may come in for an evaluation of what they think is an STI. Health care providers have been advised by the California Department of Health to consider monkeypox as a possibility in all health care settings, not just STI clinics.  

Transmission  

Monkeypox is known to spread through prolonged close physical contact with someone who has symptoms.  

  • Rash, bodily fluids (such as pus or blood from skin lesions), and scabs are particularly infectious.  
  • Respiratory droplets, ulcers, lesions, or sores in the mouth can also be infectious, meaning the virus can spread through saliva.  
  • Clothing, bedding, towels, or objects like eating utensils/dishes, that have been contaminated with the virus, can infect others. 
  • People who closely interact with someone who is infectious, including health workers, household members, and sexual partners are at greater risk of infection.  
  • The virus can also spread from someone who is pregnant to the fetus from the placenta, or from an infected parent to child during or after birth through skin-to-skin contact.  

It is unclear whether people who do not have symptoms can spread the disease.  

Symptoms  

Symptoms include rash, headache, fever, muscle and body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and back pain. The CDC recommends that anyone with a new or unexplained rash get checked by a medical professional.   

Prevention  

Monkeypox can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact which includes sexual contact. Prevention includes avoiding physical contact with someone who knows they have monkeypox or who has a rash or skin lesions that may be associated with monkeypox.  

All health care providers are advised to be aware of monkeypox symptoms and if symptoms present, test accordingly.

Testing  

If monkeypox is suspected, diagnostic samples must be collected from the roof or fluid of vesicles, pustules, or dry crusts. Samples are sent to the CDC to confirm a suspected case.  

Treatment  

“Most patients will recover in 2 to 4 weeks and will not require treatment,” says Dr. Kerkar. “However, we look to health authorities for guidance and further information on prevention and even treatment in certain situations”  
  

Trusted Sources of News and Updates:  

California Department of Health  

Centers for Disease Control (CDC)  

World Health Organization (WHO)  

LGBTQ+ Care at DAP Health

Meet Dr. Felipe Saavedra 

LGBTQ+ Care at DAP Health 

One of our Primary Care Physicians is Dr. Felipe Saavedra, an HIV Specialist, and Family Medicine physician who has been working with the LGBTQ+ community since 2009. He completed a fellowship in LGBTQ Healthcare at UCLA in 2021, becoming the first Latinx physician specifically trained to care for the diverse population of the LGBTQ+ community. 

In 2015, Dr. Saavedra joined a pre-residency program at UCLA, where he also completed his Family Medicine residency in 2020. During his training, he educated himself and his colleagues on critical health care issues impacting LGBTQ+ individuals and improved the lives of underserved patients throughout L.A. County, many of whom were Spanish-speaking. As a Clinical Instructor at UCLA, Dr. Saavedra created a curriculum for first-year medical students exposing them to various LGBTQ+ topics and continues to mentor clinicians and trainees today. 

The training Dr. Saavedra received at UCLA, both in family medicine and as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Fellow, was foundational to the doctor he is today. "It was there that I truly learned how diverse our LGBTQ+ community is—well beyond HIV/AIDS," he says. "I developed deep and meaningful relationships with trans and non-binary youth and adults at the UCLA Gender Health program, which forever left an imprint on my practice. In the end, I want to see patients succeed, regardless of the medical and social challenges." 

Here, Dr. Saavedra answers questions regarding the full spectrum of LGBTQ+ care at DAP Health and the many wellness options available to our clients. 

Q: The LGBTQ+ population has some unique care concerns that are important to discuss with a provider. Could you highlight some of the LGBTQ+ health care services that are available at DAP Health? 

A: DAP Health offers whole-person health services to LGBTQ+ individuals. We deliver physical, behavioral, emotional, and social services. On the medical side, this includes routine primary care and specialties like Infectious Disease, LGBTQ+ Healthcare, and Psychiatry; HIV/STI testing and PrEP; gender health and transgender care; and high-resolution anoscopy (HRA). 

Q: What information can you share with LGBTQ+ patients—many of whom often avoid health care settings because of past negative experiences—so they know their visits to DAP Health will be positive and they'll be met with affirming care? 

A: DAP Health is recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) for being a top performer in providing LGBTQ+ care. More than that, many of our medical providers—and also many of the clinical staff—belong to the LGBTQ+ community so we know the importance of honest and welcoming care.  

Q: Are there ongoing efforts at DAP Health to expand the services available to LGBTQ+ patients? 

A: DAP Health is a vital part of the Coachella Valley LGBTQ+ community and a leader in LGBTQ+ healthcare. We are present at nearly every large social event in the community spreading the word about our services and support for the LGBTQ+ Community. 

Q: Transgender individuals often encounter situations where their medical needs are ignored or denied. What procedures and policies does DAP Health have in place that help allay these fears? 

A: Patients at DAP Health have access to specialists trained in gender health at groundbreaking world-class institutions. Knowledgeable, affirming, and sensitive clinicians can help with transitioning, hormone replacement, mental health, community services, etc. DAP Health is always an affirming space and we recognize the unique needs of the gender diverse and trans communities. 

Q: In general, can you share your thoughts on why seeing an LGBTQ+ competent and trained clinician is important to members of that community? 

A: Even today, med students get limited training on LGBTQ-specific concerns and how to create a welcoming and non-judgmental space. Health outcomes are better when LGBTQ+ individuals feel affirmed and heard as individuals and not as a group. It's critical that the entire care team, reflected by the community we serve, is educated about and committed to LGBTQ+ issues. Removing barriers to access to health care in the LGBTQ+ community saves lives for the diverse population of the Coachella Valley.  

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