Many of us remember that chilling day in 1981 when the first diagnosis of AIDS was reported. It wasn’t long before this international epidemic took the world by storm as medical professionals and researchers worked feverishly to determine the cause, treatment and effect.
Here in the Coachella Valley, a small group of concerned volunteers joined forces to help a growing number of people who were becoming desperately ill – often dying within weeks or months. This caring group grew quickly and was established in 1984 as Desert AIDS Project (D.A.P.). They will complete their 30th year of service on August 22, 2014.
You probably know D.A.P. as an active local charity producing star-studded events to raise awareness and much needed funds for their cause, or as a medical facility providing health care and counseling services to those in need.
But D.A.P. is so much more. Their dedicated team has created an integrated facility unlike any other which caters to the medical, emotional, spiritual and social needs of its clients. Their programs are in alignment with evidence-based models endorsed by regulating agencies, advocacy groups and experts in the field, and revered by many similar organizations.
D.A.P. offers everything from free screenings, food service and dental care, to yoga, acupuncture, housing assistance for eligible clients, and even a dog park for residents of Vista Sunrise, a permanent, supportive housing complex on the D.A.P. campus. The organization seeks to meet the needs of all persons living with HIV or AIDS. They accept a wide variety of public and private insurances, offer sliding fee scales, and link uninsured, low-income clients to financial assistance and subsidized programs.
“Our program model is called a medical home, which means that health care is at heart of what we do,” states CEO David Brinkman. “But we realize that you have to serve the whole person – considering their nutrition, the stress in their lives, their social interactions – in order to accomplish successful outcomes.”
D.A.P. is an exemplary model of integrated health care offering a breadth of services including:
Clinical Services. The main Palm Springs campus provides primary and HIV-specialty care; an on-site Walgreen’s Pharmacy and Labcorp station for blood work; rapid-result HIV testing (free and confidential); case management services; a dental clinic; and home health care. They also have a health care clinic in San Bernandino, a case management and HIV testing facility in Indio, and more than two dozen HIV testing sites throughout the Valley.
Complementary Therapies. Regular classes are held offering yoga, meditation, acupuncture, nutrition education, guided imagery and affirmations, and dance therapy.
Wellness Support Services include individual counseling, therapy groups, health education, substance abuse programs, smoking cessation, and groups offering specialized support for women living with HIV, clients battling co-infection, and Latinos and Latinas living with HIV.
Case Management Services are also offered to help patients navigate benefits eligibility and link to resources both on-site and in the community, such as employment assistance, a computer lab, legal aid, and even housing in the adjacent 80-unit Vista Sunrise Apartments for low income clients living with HIV.
Community Center. D.A.P. is a primary community center for many and hosts numerous social events each week, including ‘pizza and a movie’ each week, sewing and quilting classes, and even ‘HIV & Afternoon Tea.’
Running an operation of this magnitude is no small task. “It takes a community to accomplish our mission,” states Brinkman who contributes D.A.P.’s success to their 100 employees, 500 active volunteers,15 hard-working board of directors, and their many donors and supporters, all who work tirelessly to serve over 2,200 clients, and to reach an estimated 6,000 adults and children with prevention education each year.
While their recognition is national, their work and focus remain at home. “Beginning our 30th year of service, Desert AIDS Project still lies at the epicenter of the epidemic locally for vulnerable populations,” said Brinkman. “While huge strides have been made all around the world since the first diagnoses, and we hope that we are on the brink of creating an ‘AIDS-free generation,’ we still have much work to do caring for those who need our help, and preventing the further spread of HIV.”
D.A.P. welcomes new volunteers and offers tours of their Palm Springs facility located at the corner of Sunrise and Vista Chino. Upcoming fundraising events including the 2013 Desert AIDS Walk (Oct. 19), Dancing with the Desert Stars (Nov. 22) and SPARKLE! All-Star Holiday Concert (Dec.11). For more information contact Desert AIDS Project at 760.323.2118 or visit desertAIDSproject.org.
Hmmm…. I am disappointed that no mention was made of the Volunteer Peer Counselors on the Care Team. These volunteers offer one-to-one emotional and practical support to clients of the D.A.P. This group of 12 volunteers offers an average of 4 hours a week to each of the 20, or so, clients on the roster…
Even the dog park got mentioned…!
Thank you for your note. We are sorry to have overlooked this service; it in no way undermines its value. Counseling was mentioned, as was the dog park to show the breadth of services offered.
I am certain your work and contributions are immeasurable.
Lauren Del Sarto