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