INDIO ARTISTS HELP MAKE DAP HEALTH’S NEW SEXUAL WELLNESS CLINIC A WELCOMING, SAFE SPACE
Words by Ellen Bluestein
May 30, 2022
When clients arrive at DAP Health’s new sexual wellness clinic in Indio, the first thing they will see is a colorful mural in the waiting room. Designed by Indio artists Cece Cruz and Evelyn Sofia Rivera, together known as Mujeres Murals, the full-scale artwork creates a warm and familiar environment to help alleviate the anxiety of those seeking services.
The clinic, located at 81-719 Doctor Carreon Blvd, Suite D in Indio, is set to open on July 11, 2022, and will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. It will offer testing for HIV, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis. The clinic will also provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). Case management and connections to additional resources will also be available. Testing and treatment are confidential and free of charge.
To celebrate the opening of the new clinic, DAP Health will host a ribbon cutting ceremony on Saturday, July 16, 2022, at 10:00 a.m., with a tour of the facility. All are invited to attend.
“We started to do planning a year before the COVID pandemic to address unmet needs in our community and to respond to where we're finding new HIV cases and why new infections are happening to certain members of our community,” said CJ Tobe, director of community health and sexual wellness services. “[We] identified that there's such an unmet need for sexual wellness services, specifically surrounding Indio... The data showed new HIV cases located in the east valley. Latinos with lower income and under the age of 39 are most at risk. So, everything just made sense for us to respond to the need by opening a clinic there.”
“What was happening is that[clients] weren't doing routine testing, Tobe continued. “They were coming in for treatment which means they're having symptoms. They had to be seen right away. So, it wasn't just regular asymptomatic testing. We also identified through trends that the majority of new HIV cases were in people living under 200% of the federal poverty level. So, we also knew then that there was a cost barrier that may be preventing people in our community from accessing a clinic.”
At the new Indio clinic, “the patient will be able to come in, they'll be able to see our clinicians... and then they'll be able to get their medication right there too,” said Tobe. “They don't have to go across the street or down the road and maybe run into their cousin or, you know, something like that.”
Another barrier to service is the discomfort that often accompanies talk of sexuality. “There is a lot of stigma and shame attached to sexual wellness specifically in the Latino community in Indio,” said Tobe. “We're hoping, when we open the doors, that we start reaching the community and establishing trust with people.”
Part of establishing that trust included enlisting Cruz and Rivera to create the serene scene on the walls of the clinic’s waiting room. “I think once the community learns that Cece and her team created this beautiful mural in the clinic, that it will be welcoming and representative of the community, [it will start] building that trust,” said Tobe.
While Tobe picked the color palette and some elements for the wall-sized painting, Cruz and Rivera had artistic license to design the rest. “Both of us are very grateful for how much freedom we've had with this mural,” said Rivera. “We've been really appreciative of the fact that CJ has been completely open to the ideas and our styles.”
The scene features a wide range of colors – from browns and blues to pinks and purples - that can often be found in a desertscape. “It's not super bright. It stands out, but it's not aggressive,” said Rivera. Added Cruz, “It’s warm but it’s not dull. It’s not muted.”
The overall design concept was a collaborative process. “I really wanted to incorporate that feeling of not just the desert with the fields and the community and the people but also that feeling of nurturing with the tree and the Mother Earth,” said Cruz. “And so that was my idea of the part that I had sketched.”
“I really like cactuses,” added Rivera. “I feel like they're a symbol of home. I think that [they are] especially familiar.”
“We put together sketches but then we got community input as to which sketch, they wanted to go with,” Rivera explained. “We submitted three different sketches and then put them online and asked, ‘okay, which ones do you guys like better? Or do you want them all included?’ And everybody decided they wanted all of them. So now we've done a mixture of the three.”
Connecting with community is key to how both Cruz and Rivera work. “I think the rapport that we've been able to build with the community, throughout our mural painting is that people enjoy visually what it is that we've created so it's not going to be taken likely, Rivera said. “They trust us, and we trust them. It's mutual.”
“When I think about the mural...my hopes are that people see it and they feel just warm and welcomed and peace and it's familiar. Like whatever fear and anxieties anybody might be feeling, when they see it, they're like, ‘oh, okay,’ and kind of take a deep breath and say ah,” Cruz said demonstrating a stress-releasing exhalation.
“We wanted it to feel very welcoming,” she added. “You walk in and you're just like, oh, okay, I feel good here.”
Indio artists Cecelia Cruz and Evelyn Sogia Rivera, designed the new community mural in the Indio Sexual Wellness Clinic.