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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 is an Emergency

A State of Emergency with a Solution: Prioritize LGBTQ+ Health Equity Today  

We went from 1 monkeypox case in May to 5,000+ preventable cases today. I am devastated by how many people are in horrific pain. Pain and suffering could have been avoided had the U.S. followed its own predictions and prepared to respond.

Since the 2003 U.S. monkeypox outbreak, experts predicted another. And as HIV and COVID taught us, an outbreak would dominate in marginalized populations who face barriers to health equity.   

We are now in a state of emergency as declared by WHO (World Health Organization) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.    

The emergency is the rapid spread, but that is not where the emergency ends:   

The emergency is that prior to this outbreak, the US had an effective monkeypox test, effective medications, and an effective vaccine, yet our highest-risk populations still do not have access to it.   

The emergency is that many people, presently infected with monkeypox, are experiencing severe pain; pain so significant that eating and eliminating waste requires pain medication and in some cases, hospitalization.  

The emergency is that even prior to this outbreak, organized political discrimination against LGBTQ+ populations has been steadily increasing.   

DAP Health was founded because many in power failed our community. While AIDS attacked us from one side, apathy, and hatred towards the LGBTQ+ community slowed the response, leaving us alone with a virus that robbed us of loved ones.   

It took until July 23 for the WHO to declare monkeypox a global health emergency - stating it was partly because the disease had not moved out of the primary risk group, men who have sex with men. Sadly, it should come as no surprise the US response remains slow and inadequate for LGBTQ+ community members worried about contracting monkeypox and to the thousands of people who have already been diagnosed.   

The only reason the monkeypox virus has not been contained is that the U.S. has yet to treat this threat to the health of gay, bisexual, and transgender people as the health emergency it is. New York and San Fransisco, both early in the response to HIV and COVID, have declared a state of emergency. Like DAP Health, they have been here before and they know that now is the time for a coordinated and swift response.   

DAP Health, with a patient population of 10,000, has only received 497 doses of vaccine and has yet to receive the TPOXX medication for treatment. Our nation’s LGBTQ+ community health centers, with a history of treating the community’s physical and mental health; with expertise in addressing stigma and discrimination, are most likely to reach those at risk for monkeypox, and yet, we are being overlooked and under-resourced.    

There is a solution to this health emergency:  

LGBTQ+ organizations should be the priority for vaccine supply and medications for treatment; because our approach strengthens the LGBTQ+ community. To end monkeypox, we must confront the discrimination in the US that has enabled this preventable crisis.   

LGBTQ+ health equity goes beyond a “shot in the arm.”  Our approach addresses the health disparities faced by LGBTQ+ communities by incorporating free HIV and STI testing and treatment, free PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis) services, and access to affordable primary care, mental health, and substance use recovery.   

Every one of us needs to do our part. Let our elected officials know there is NO EXCUSE for another week of cases doubling while people suffer in excruciating pain. Let our elected officials know we are in a state of emergency and that the time has come to prioritize LGBTQ+ health equity. 

Here is an update about how we are prioritizing the distribution of the doses received and how we continue to respond to the current health emergency.  

DAP Health administered all 160 doses provided in our first allotment from the Riverside Department of Public Health.  

On Friday, DAP Health received 337 additional doses. High-risk DAP Health patients and community members who fit the current priority guidelines received an invitation to schedule an appointment for the JYNNEOS vaccine.   

DAP Health’s monkeypox hotline launched on August 1, and we are adding invitation-only Saturday vaccine clinics beginning August 6.  

DAP Health MPX Hotline: 760-656-8432 or MPOX@daphealth.org   

To stay up to date on the latest developments regarding Monkeypox please visit our landing page: daphealth.org/monkeypox 

 

Reproductive Care is Health Care

The Intersection of LGBTQ Health Care and Reproductive Rights  

Prioritizing Patients Over Politics 

DAP Health is an advocacy-based humanitarian organization that believes women’s rights are human rights. Women played a critical role in our founding and continue to help lead our organization today. 

DAP Health stands in support of sexual and reproductive health care for women -- whether born cisgender, trans, non-binary, or lesbian.  

DAP Health supports a woman’s right to choose. We believe all women should receive access to health care tailored to their needs, not policies or politics. We believe that health care access for LGBTQ individuals and reproductive health care are uniquely linked because challenges to each are often based on political or ideological arguments that fail to prioritize patient-centered care. 

For 38 years, DAP Health has been advancing LGBTQ health care. First by focusing on HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, then on testing and treatment of sexually transmitted diseases, and most recently on gender-affirming care. We continue to expand our ability to provide culturally competent primary care and mental health care services.  

We see health outcomes improve when barriers like shame are removed. And we see the impact of anti-LGBTQ legislation on our community's mental health. We advocate for stigma-reducing person-centric language while providing patient-centered care, free from judgment. 

Access matters. According to the World Health Organization, lack of access to safe, affordable, timely, and respectful abortion care, and the stigma associated with abortion, pose detrimental risks to women’s physical and mental well-being throughout their lives.  

The Federal Policy Director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR), Julianna Gonen, wrote in 2019: "The movements for reproductive freedom and LGBTQ equality share deeply linked interests and concerns. We are all seeking control over our own bodies – the freedom to decide whether to become or remain pregnant, whether and with whom to have intimate relationships, and whether to seek medical care to help our bodies align with our gender identities. We seek the freedom to form our families on our own terms – to partner with and marry whom we love, to have children or not, and to live as our true selves as determined by us, not by someone else." 

The LGBTQ Community Finds Care at Reproductive Wellness Centers  

In Palm Springs, the LGBTQ community has enjoyed affirming health care at DAP Health since 1984. But in rural areas across California, and the nation, that same community often turns to reproductive wellness centers for judgment-free access to routine and preventative HIV and STI testing and treatment; gender-affirming care, and services related to reproductive healthcare.  

Roe v Wade and Marriage Equality  

We as a grassroots organization, founded in part because of denied access to health care and discrimination, firmly and ardently support the rights of every individual to make decisions based on their own personal needs. 

If the court does indeed overturn Roe v Wade, legal advocates say it has implications for other rights rooted in privacy, such as the rights pertaining to private sexual activity, and marriage equality.  

This includes the 2015 SCOTUS Obergefell v. Hodges ruling which affirmed that the Constitution grants same-sex couples equal protection and equal rights under the law. These rights cover access to employer-funded medical insurance coverage for same-sex couples and their dependents, family medical leave, and hospital visitation rights.  

Why DAP Health Focuses on Culturally Competent Care 

LGBTQ people experience worse health outcomes than the population overall due to barriers including high rates of health care discrimination, stigma, and humiliation; all of which are compounded by racism and poverty. 

Delayed preventive and medical care directly impact health outcomes for the LGBTQ community. Removing barriers to care while standing alongside our partners in reproductive health is the vital work that remains to be done to improve the health and well-being of everyone in our community. 

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