DAP Health to open registration for Desert AIDS Walk 2021
By Steven Henke
More than 2,000 local humanitarians will come together to end the HIV epidemic, expand healthcare access, and remember those friends and family members who we lost because of AIDS.
The 2021 Desert AIDS Walk will be an in-person event Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021, beginning at Ruth Hardy Park and following a route through downtown Palm Springs. The family and pet-friendly event includes a Health and Wellness Festival presented by Walgreens. Registration opens August 2.
The annual Desert AIDS Walk helps fund the vital work of DAP Health. “We remain committed to ending the epidemic and caring for people living with HIV. That work includes the vital services we offer, including HIV prevention and specialty care, STI screening and treatment, housing support, benefits navigation, medical, dental, and behavioral healthcare,” says DAP Health CEO David Brinkman.
This year marks 40 years of HIV with the first reported cases about what would become known as HIV and AIDS published in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. Brinkman says, “AIDS taught us a community response is the most effective response. It taught us that we cannot turn our backs when communities are in need and in fear, that we must remember our humanity and the gift of giving back and be there to help. And as we have learned through our recent human rights and health equity movements, equality cannot be experienced by one until it is experienced by all.”
Since 1984, residents of the Coachella Valley have been coming together as a community in action caring for those living with and now aging with HIV. DAP Health Chief Development and Strategy Officer Darrell Tucci says, “Desert AIDS Walk brings together the collective power of community and our shared vision of a future where everyone has the comprehensive care they need to live their best lives.”
After 40 years, public health officials and activists see a pathway to end the AIDS epidemic. It starts with treatment.
With proper medical care, those living with HIV can reduce the viral load in their blood to an undetectable level. When HIV can’t be detected it can’t be transmitted, according to the California Department of Public Health (CDPH).
Health officials and activists are now championing the message that undetectable equals untransmittable, or U=U.
The U=U campaign also aims to end the stigma around HIV. That stigma keeps too many people from getting tested for HIV or obtaining the care they need to stay healthy. The result of 40 years of research is that people living with HIV can suppress the virus and live long lives with medication.
A commitment to health equity
DAP Health’s care team and experts are making a conscious effort to talk about health equity more, because the CDC and the CDPH both say we need health equity for people if we’re going to beat COVID-19.
“Health equity means that everyone has the opportunity to be healthy based on their needs, not on their ability to pay,” says Brinkman. “It also means no one should feel like an outsider once they come inside to see a doctor or psychologist.
“But getting people to take that first step can be difficult.”
Discrimination — against the poor, LGBTQ individuals and racial minorities — also increases the likelihood people will avoid essential care.
“If you’re told by society over and over again that you’re bad, wrong, inferior and not good enough, then you come to believe it after a while,” says Dr. Jill Gover, a licensed clinical psychologist who leads DAP Health’s Behavioral Health department. “And with the inadequacy comes shame.”
“The intersection of oppression and poverty can create feelings of unworthiness, which are barriers to care,” she says.
To break down these barriers, DAP Health is making it easier for people to ask for help in several important ways. DAP Health has culturally competent doctors and therapists who can see patients from home, or onsite at the DAP campus. Social-services access has also been expanded for help with life essentials during this pandemic.
DAP Health’s dedication to cultural humility has its care team leaning in to get to know their patients, instead of assuming a one-size-fits-all approach works.