The 2023 DAP Health Equity Walk Funds Care for Those Living with HIV
The Desert AIDS Walk may have been renamed the Health Equity Walk this year, but the fight against HIV/AIDS will forever be at the heart of the nonprofit’s work. On National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day, DAP Health reaffirms its commitment to all those living with the virus.
Earlier this year, the internationally renowned humanitarian health care organization and federally qualified health center (FQHC) whose goal it is to protect and expand health care access for all people — especially the marginalized, regardless of who or where they are, their health status, or whether they have health insurance — made a successful bid to acquire the Borrego Health System, enabling it to now serve more than 100,000 patients of all populations, genders, and ages (from newborns to seniors) at a total of 25 Southern California clinics located within 240 rural and urban zip codes from the Salton Sea to San Diego.
To some, this expansion signals that the organization — founded as Desert AIDS Project in 1984 by a group of community volunteers determined to provide support, care, and treatment options to gay men with HIV who had been ostracized by the mainstream and abandoned by their government — is drifting from its initial mission.
In truth, HIV prevention, testing, and treatment remains as central to DAP Health’s work as it ever has been, and will forever remain so.
Indeed, it is precisely thanks to the nonprofit’s nearly 40 years of experience and proven success in the field of HIV/AIDS that it has been able to thrive and grow as it has. The agency’s hard-won expertise in providing health care to one marginalized community has permitted it to transfer its unique, patient-centered model of care to a vast array of other such groups, including women, people of color, the poor, the undocumented, those with substance use disorder, and more.
By standing on the shoulders of all those lost to HIV/AIDS, and all those living and aging well with the virus today, DAP Health’s broadened mission remains perfectly in line with that of its founders, whose singular goal was to provide for those dismissed by the mainstream. Expanding health care access is just one of the ways DAP Health honors the memory of those lost to HIV/AIDS.
“While I may consider myself to be somewhat of an open book, I realize most people don’t know I once experienced the stigma and shame of being gay, that I live today with HIV, that I once was unhoused, and that I long ago faced mental health issues,” says DAP Health Chief of Community Health C.J. Tobe. “I am a survivor who is as thankful as I am excited about the tremendous impending expansion of our community health department. I believe it is my and my team’s duty and privilege to advocate and fight daily on behalf of every member of our diverse communities — but especially for those who are LGBTQ+ and/or living with HIV — so that they may get the second, third, and fourth chances I received, which enabled me to see my bright future and to live my happiest and healthiest life.”
Just some of the ways in which DAP Health daily confirms its commitment to those living with HIV — while honoring the memory of the millions who have succumbed to the disease in the last four decades — include:
- Providing free HIV testing and treatment (such as Rapid StART antiretroviral therapy) plus free access to preventive measures (such as PrEP and PEP) not only at its sexual wellness clinics in Palm Springs and Indio (and soon at the Stonewall Medical Center in Cathedral City) but via its mobile clinic’s presence throughout the Coachella Valley.
- Delivering primary, mental health, and HIV care to people living with the virus.
- Offering a host of client wellness initiatives and other social services — including affordable housing at our 81-unit, on-campus Vista Sunrise complex at DAP Health Sunrise — to clients with HIV/AIDS.
- Serving as the co-presenting sponsor of the Positively Aging Project, the eighth annual Coachella Valley conference on HIV and aging presented as a hybrid gathering (in person at the Mizell Center and virtually via Zoom) on September 23, 2023.
- Donating $50,000 to the AIDS Memorial Sculpture created by acclaimed artist Phillip K. Smith III, which will be prominently displayed at Palm Springs’ Downtown Park located at Belardo Road and Museum Way.
At its 2023 Health Equity Walk — which kicks off at 9:00 a.m. at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, October 28, 2023 — DAP Health will honor long-term HIV survivors and those lost to AIDS via:
- A special tribute performance by the Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus.
- The observance of a minute of silence.
- A memorial pavilion where Health Equity Walk participants and supporters can display photos of loved ones living with, or lost to, HIV/AIDS.
- The display, at the pavilion, of two AIDS quilts, one of which is made of 20 vintage Desert AIDS Walk T-shirts.
- A keynote address by DAP Health CEO David Brinkman about what loss has taught us.
- A ribbon-cutting by DAP Health’s Community Advisory Board, made up of long-term HIV/AIDS survivors.
“The mission, vision, and purpose of DAP Health’s Community Advisory Board (CAB) is to advocate for its clients and patients while considering diversity, equity, and inclusion,” says CAB Co-Chair Michael O’Neill. “We CAB members congratulate the organization’s staff and leadership on its 2023 Health Equity Walk, which continues the commitment to existing and identified needs while expanding the lens throughout Southern California. This act of ‘paying it forward’ includes those often ignored or forgotten, giving everyone a place to be honored and embraced. We stand completely by this greater care and respect for all, marching alongside DAP Health with pride.”
For more information about DAP Health’s efforts on behalf of all those living with or affected by HIV/AIDS, please contact Chief of Brand Marketing Steven Henke at 760.656.8401 or [email protected].