FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 2, 2021
DAP Health Opens Registration for Desert AIDS Walk 2021
“Together Again” Ending the HIV Epidemic
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, presented by Desert Care Network, 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 Village presented by Walgreens. Businesses interested in sponsoring the walk or participating in the wellness festival should contact Director of Development James Lindquist at [email protected].
The annual Desert AIDS Walk helps fund the vital work of DAP Health, previously Desert AIDS Project, an advocacy-based healthcare organization that provides service to more than 10,000 individuals. DAP Health CEO David Brinkman says, "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.”
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 concept of U=U is the foundation of being able to end the epidemic,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in 2019.
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.
“They can have sex, babies, love — all with no risk,” says HIV activist Bruce Richman, who founded the Prevention Access Campaign, which started the U=U message.
“But if a person doesn’t know they have HIV, that person won’t get access to the medication to stay untransmittable,” Richman says.
“If we really want to end the epidemic and save lives, we’re going to make sure that we invest in the wellbeing of people living with HIV, so they can stay healthy and prevent new transmissions,”
“DAP Health’s integrated model of services supports those people living with HIV on their journey to U=U,” says C.J. Tobe, DAP Health’s director of Community Health and Sexual Wellness.
“At DAP Health we learned through the AIDS crisis that becoming undetectable is more than taking daily medication,” Tobe says. “It is a combination of factors such as a roof over your head, food in your belly, staying on top of your mental health, and following through on routine oral health exams.”
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.
“At DAP Health, you’ll be helped by someone who understands what you’ve been through, without you having to spell it out for them. It’s that simple,” says Carl Baker, DAP Health’s Director of Legislative and Legal Affairs. “And if they don’t look exactly like you, then rest assured they’ve been trained in cultural competence, and they are your ally.”
Once people begin getting care at DAP Health, they become part of the family.
“Health equity at DAP Health means no one wonders if they belong — they just feel it,” says Brinkman.
Desert AIDS Walk funds the vital work of DAP Health:
*All data via USD Report [what is the USD Report] January 2020 – December 2020
- Primary Care — More than 10,000 individuals call DAP Health their patient-centered healthcare home. In the earliest days of the AIDS crisis, DAP Health discovered health outcomes for our HIV-positive clients increased when we provided healthcare to their life partners and family members who were acting as caregivers. Today, DAP Health offers leading HIV specialty care and primary care for our community members not living with HIV, because there is enough love in this valley to help everyone thrive and prevent new cases of HIV.
- Transgender Care — DAP Health is guiding more transgender, intersex, and gender diverse clients on their gender journeys. Too many transgender individuals in the Inland Empire assume they will never access stigma-free and competent care. At DAP Health they never have to worry.
- Dental Care — Dental access is vital for good health, especially for people living with HIV. Good oral health is directly tied to better health outcomes. Patients took care of their smiles at DAP Health with attention from dentists and dental hygienists in 3,437 visits.
- Ending the HIV Epidemic — New HIV infections are rising, but the best way to help everyone protect themselves and each other is with free and accessible testing. Our testing team met clients where they were, in our sexual health clinic or out in the community, and we helped people take control with 8,065 HIV tests. Thanks to our EIS team, the shock of a new HIV diagnosis for 47 people was met with linkage to medical and behavioral healthcare, including wellness and social services for the long haul.
- HIV At-Home Self Testing — When we noticed increasing HIV at a time when patients say they are afraid to leave home, we brought free grant funded testing tools to them via mail. By providing confidential and free testing with the option of guidance from a DAP team member, we are keeping our promise to fight HIV in the Coachella Valley. DAP provided 402 HIV self-test kits, preventing dangerous delays in HIV testing.
- Linked to HIV Care ASAP — Many people do not get tested for HIV because the prospect of managing HIV for the rest of their lives is overwhelming. But DAP Health has been standing by every person it has tested for HIV for 37 years. When it comes to linking those tested to meaningful medical and behavioral healthcare that improves health outcomes and reduces new transmissions, DAP Health has a 97% success rate.
- Courage to Resume Antiretroviral (ART) Treatment — Economic and housing instability, behavioral health challenges, or simply getting overwhelmed can cause PLWHA to fall out of care. Thanks to our EIS team, 96 patients resumed their life-sustaining medical care because a DAP specialist reached out to let them know they matter and offered a way back. Ninety-six PLWHA learned it’s not too late to Resume ART Treatment
- Sexual Wellness – Free STI screening and treatment. Because we will not stop the spread of HIV and STIs in the Coachella Valley if we do not make testing and treatment available to everyone. We helped 947 patients heal from STIs like chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 1,615 visits.
- Finding Safer Sex with PrEP Navigation — HIV has not taken a break, but we made it easy for 217 patients to protect themselves and others with access to PrEP. Our PrEP Navigators make sure patients understand the program, cost, and health information in a private, supportive, and safe setting. During the COVID health crisis, we kept PrEP available to patients while they sheltered in place, with telephone consults, medication delivery, and sanitized testing environments at DAP Health.
- Behavioral Healthcare — Coping with HIV and life can be overwhelming. DAP Health Behavioral Health clinicians help our community find hope. Because with the right support, we can get through almost any storm. Behavioral health and addiction treatment are included as critical components of DAP Health’s Primary Care, because if untreated, these issues get in the way of our patients’ health. We helped 1,388 patients cope with depression and mood disorders in 10,728 visits. Substance abuse, especially with alcohol and crystal meth, disproportionately harms the LGBTQ+ community and PLWHA in the Coachella Valley. We helped 704 patients address substance and alcohol issues in 3,537 visits.
- Community Health Education — Our team meets patients where they are on their journey providing education throughout the year at events across the Coachella Valley at 115 presentations attended by 1,545 individuals.
- Social Services — Case managers make accessing healthcare and support services a reality for DAP Health clients. Our case managers help clients secure transportation, food, housing, and enrolling for federal, state, and local resources to cover care. In a complex healthcare system, DAP Health takes the worry out of obtaining and keeping care.
- Housing — DAP Health helps clients move into permanent residences and is developing more opportunities. Housing assistance is part of our prescription. Access to medication is not enough to treat HIV — it also requires a place to live.
- Back to Work — DAP Health's back-to-work program has assisted hundreds of clients to re-enter the workforce when they were ready. This includes internet and computer access, resume coaching, and job placement. DAP Health helps clients determine readiness for employment and supports them throughout the process. Because having a job can be powerful medicine supports wellbeing by staying connected to their community, develop employment skills and helps provide a sense of self-worth.
- Client Wellness — A range of services, classes, and support groups make DAP Health a community hub. By providing classes such as yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and reiki, we’re able to provide care for the whole person and a safe space for connection. The AIDS crisis taught us that holistic health works. In addition, DAP Health provides groups centered around aging with HIV, addiction and recovery advocacy, and much more. DAP Health understands that when a few people get together to support each other, an entire humanitarian movement can be born.
- Responding to COVID — DAP Health opened one of California’s first COVID clinics and hotlines to offer screening, testing, and treatment. A total of 3,698 coronavirus tests were completed.
Desert AIDS Walk Sponsors
Presented By: Desert Care Network
Health and Wellness Village Presenting Sponsor: Walgreens
Major sponsors: Gilead, Grace Helen Spearmen Charitable Foundation, NBC Palm Springs and The Desert Sun
Other Sponsors: CV Independent, Gay Desert Guide, KGay, Promo Homo TV, Rage Monthly, and Revivals Stores
About DAP Health
DAP Health is an advocacy-based health center in Palm Springs, Calif., serving more than 10,000 patients, offering medical and mental healthcare, 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.
DAP Health opened one of California’s first COVID clinics and hotlines to offer screening, testing, and treatment. DAP Health also is working to address the social determinants of health that are causing negative health outcomes during this pandemic, like food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation, and access to ongoing healthcare.
DAP Health’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and hepatitis C (HCV) testing. DAP Health has earned Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the twelfth consecutive year — landing DAP in the top 6% of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that DAP Health exceeds industry standards in terms of financial health, accountability, and transparency.
Visit www.daphealth.org to learn more.