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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.” 

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. 

Fighting Long COVID

Long Haul Covid

Fighting Long COVID 

September 28, 2022

Words by Alicia Green

 

Dr. David Morris, DAP Health chief medical officer, discusses what it is and next steps following a diagnosis.  

When most people get COVID-19, they tend to recover once the infection leaves their body. But some adults have been experiencing what scientists and doctors call “long COVID,” which can drastically change a person’s life and health.  

“Long COVID is the syndrome that people can experience after three months of having had COVID, and they continue to have symptoms after that,” says Dr. David Morris, chief medical officer at DAP Health. “The recovery can be for the rest of their lives or for another six months to one year.”  

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 40% of U.S. adults have reported having COVID-19. Of those adults, 19% report that they still have symptoms of long COVID. (The condition is also known as long-haul COVID, chronic COVID and post-acute COVID-19, among other names.) 

The Signs 

Because long COVID can affect multiple organs, there are a wide range of symptoms and signs. The most common ones are fatigue, the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion, difficulty breathing and shortness of breath. In addition, respiratory and heart symptoms include cough, chest pain and heart palpitations.  

“Cardiomyopathy is one of the biggest ones,” Morris says. “It can affect the heart and cause it to not be as strong as it was prior to infection.”  

There are also neurological symptoms like headaches, sleep problems, changes in smell and taste, lightheadedness and difficulty thinking or concentrating, also called brain fog. Some people experience diarrhea, stomach pain, rashes and joint or muscle pain. 

The CDC reports that people who have had COVID-19 are more likely to develop new health conditions such as diabetes and heart or neurological conditions.  

COVID-19 has even led to impairment and disability. Being in the hospital, in the ICU or on a ventilator for months has caused muscular damage for patients. Some people have had to learn to walk again and still struggle with their movement.  

Risk Factors 

So what causes long COVID? Morris says there are many factors. Research shows that most patients with long COVID were on ventilators and had prolonged hospitalization, he explains.  

“It was probably the trauma of those hospitalizations, complications of being on a ventilator, an impaired immune system or multisystem organ failure,” Morris says. “Their body just never quite recovered from it.” 

Long COVID is also more likely to develop in people who had underlying health conditions prior to COVID-19 and are immunocompromised. For example, patients with asthma or other lung conditions, cancer or transplant patients on certain treatments, and those with inherited diseases that affect the immune system, according to the CDC.  

Morris explains that patients with HIV have the same risk of long COVID as the general population, which was a surprising finding to him. “Most people with HIV these days are not really immunosuppressed,” Morris says. “They have T cells that are high enough, viral loads that are suppressed and their own medications, so they don’t have depleted immune systems.” 

Minorities and people living in poverty are also at greater risk of developing long COVID than the general population. Morris attributes this to income disparities, a lack of proper health services and higher rates of disease among these communities.  

In addition, Morris was surprised to find that more women have long COVID than men and that more people in their 40s and 50s have the condition than older adults. That’s why he wants people to know that even the healthiest of individuals can develop chronic COVID. It affects anyone and everyone.  

Protect Yourself 

Morris encourages people to get the COVID-19 vaccine to help protect themselves from getting moderate to severe disease and being admitted to the hospital.  

“We’re on the fifth dose [of the vaccine],” Morris says. “It’s called Bivalent. It now covers the Omicron variants that have become resistant to some of the other treatments. It is very important for this flu season and COVID season that is getting ready to come up.”  

Morris points out that a University of California, San Francisco study found that the COVID vaccines improved symptoms of people that had long COVID. It’s another reason people should get their vaccines and boosters, he says.  

It’s also important that people begin to pay attention to the signs and signals in their bodies. Any symptoms that persist or form months after COVID should be reported to a primary doctor. For example, if a person can’t exercise anymore or has trouble remembering names, they need to tell their physician. The same goes for struggling with balance or newly developed high blood pressure.  

“Work with your clinician to make sure it’s not something else,” Morris says. “Because long COVID is truly a diagnosis of exclusion. That might mean your clinician would begin doing diagnostic workups.”  

Primary care doctors at DAP Health are on a mission to look out for long COVID in patients. That means they are actively listening to patients and the symptoms they report. Once they conduct blood work and scans to figure out what the problem is, they get patients into specialty care. That could mean a referral to a cardiologist, pulmonologist, neurologist or an infectious disease doctor.  

There is also a social services department onsite that helps people who are struggling in other areas of their life because of long COVID. The department assists with financial and physicals concerns, such as being unable to afford gas and having trouble cleaning the house or buying groceries.  

“It goes beyond just the physical and medical limitations,” Morris explains. “Depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder are huge in post-COVID.” 

That’s why it is important to have a behavioral health specialist, clinical psychologist or psychiatrist to assist people with their mental health while struggling with long COVID. Morris adds that patients can utilize such services at DAP Health as well.  

His advice to DAP Health patients is simple: use masks, use common sense and wash your hands. DAP Health employees continue to wear masks and conduct COVID screenings for visitors. He also encourages everyone to follow the health regulations for California and Riverside County.  

“Don’t let your guard down,” Morris says. “People have been so tired of doing this for so long. We are tired of COVID, wearing masks and talking about it, but it’s still here. We expect that probably yearly we’ll all be needing to get a COVID vaccine.”  

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