By Barry L. Dayton
An article in the April 2014 issue of A&U Magazine, dedicated to those who are HIV-affected, called Desert AIDS Project “an oasis in Palm Springs.” The writer remarked on how the 30-year-old agency “has grown into an impressive facility dedicated to addressing the holistic needs of its community, which has an HIV/AIDS prevalence rate twice the national average.”
United States Sen. Barbara Boxer was similarly impressed when she visited the D.A.P. campus later that month, on April 23, to recognize the 25-year community partnership between D.A.P. and the city of Palm Springs, through the city government’s local administration of funds made available by the federal Community Development Block Grant program. Boxer, who was one of the very first U.S. politicians to secure funding for HIV/AIDS treatment in the early 1980s, toured the agency and learned more about D.A.P.’s array of medical and dental care, as well as behavioral health and essential “wraparound” services. The senator also saw in-house facilities that include a lab for blood work, a pharmacy whose staff specializes in HIV medication therapies, and the Client Community Center. This community center at D.A.P. is a welcoming space, designed to combat HIV stigma and isolation through skills-for-living and back-to-work training, and other educational and social activities. All these programs and services are seamlessly tied together — all under one roof — by case managers for the more than 2,200 clients of D.A.P. As one of its housing options, the Desert AIDS Project campus even includes an 81-unit apartment complex for low-income clients.
Along the way, David Brinkman, CEO of Desert AIDS Project, responded to Boxer’s many questions about current HIV protocols for care by taking her through recent expansions to the agency, including more than doubling the size of its HIV-specialty dental clinic — the first in Riverside County — through a generous donation by Georgia and Jerry Fogelson. Boxer also heard about what has been happening through the Annette Bloch Cancer Care Center, a million dollar gift in 2012 by its namesake, which enables regular screenings for some kinds of cancers often associated with HIV. Senator Boxer also heard about some of D.A.P.’s other near-horizon plans to open a full STD clinic, undertake clinical trials and research, and more.
Little wonder that, several months earlier, in August 2013, About.com, a top 40 U.S. website attracting more than 86 million users monthly, included Desert AIDS Project in its list of “Top 20 HIV/AIDS Charities.” Desert AIDS Project was selected as one of only a small handful of HIV/AIDS charities that met a set of standards, including:
• spending at least 75 percent of their cash budget on bona fide programs
• raising $100 from every $15 spent fundraising, and
• operating with complete financial transparency.
The “Top 20” list was assembled for About. com by Dennis Sifris, M.D. and James Myhre. Dr. Sifris is an HIV specialist and Chief Medical officer of LifeSense Disease Management, an HIV-managed care company based in South Africa, while Mr. Myhre is an American journalist and HIV educator. About.com’s peer-reviewed Health Channel includes over 1,000 topics curated by researchers, physicians, medical writers, and healthcare professionals. It was the recipient of the 2013 Web Health Award, honoring the best digital health resources in the U.S.
On Aug. 22, 2013 the day Desert AIDS Project began its 30th year of service — CEO David Brinkman said “While we are immensely proud to be recognized in this way, we know that it really does take a global village, with each community in each country fighting the continuing spread of HIV while caring and advocating for those who are already infected. The spirit of those volunteer warriors who started D.A.P. back in 1984 lives on today and we shall continue to honor their commitment every day we serve the community.”
D.A.P. IS ALSO LEADING THE NATION’S FIRST REGION-WIDE HIV TESTING EFFORT
Desert Regional Medical Center (DRMC) is the lead sponsor of Get Tested Coachella Valley, the nation’s first region-wide campaign to dramatically reduce the spread of HIV by making HIV testing standard and routine medical practice, while ensuring linkage to care for those who test positive. DRMC is “walking the talk” by making a gift of $1.5 million to the multi-year initiative.
In a recent study, it was shown that people on effective HIV medications became 96 percent less infectious — providing scientific evidence that testing, plus treatment, results in HIV prevention. With the help of “champions” like Carolyn Caldwell, CEO of DRMC — and a D.A.P. board member — along with board chair Barbara Keller and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., the campaign not only expects to help eradicate HIV stigma and prevent new infections but will also help to save the Coachella Valley an estimated $380 million to $1 billion in healthcare costs.
1695 N. Sunrise Way
Palm Springs CA 92262