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CJ Tobe, director of Community Health & Sexual Wellness with (right) Alex Sykora, nurse practitioner of Sexual Wellness.
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY DAP HEALTH
This past July, DAP Health’s new Sexual Wellness Clinic opened in Indio to help bring much needed sexual health services to the east valley. The clinic, located at 81719 Dr. Carreon Blvd., Suite D in Indio, will operate Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and will offer free testing for HIV, hepatitis C, and sexually transmitted infections including gonorrhea, chlamydia, and syphilis.
In addition, the clinic will offer pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) for HIV clients. Case management and referrals to additional resources will also be available. For anyone who tests positive for HIV, the clinic will provide rapid start medication and connections to continued care which is essential in reducing new HIV infections and improving the health outcomes of the person living with HIV. While the cost of ongoing HIV treatment is not included in the clinic’s free services, DAP Health offers financial assistance for those who need it.
“We started to do planning [for the clinic] 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,” says C.J. Tobe, director of community health and sexual wellness at DAP Health.
In 2019, 25% of all HIV-positive test results at DAP Health were Hispanic men. “[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,” Tobe said. “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.”
Tobe added, “Many folks were driving from the east valley to Palm Springs to utilize DAP Health’s sexual wellness services. We noticed not only a high volume of patients but most of those patients were already having symptoms of an STI or testing positive for HIV.” Tobe believes free testing and treatment, with the convenience of not having to drive a great distance, will encourage more people to get tested. “We knew then that there was a cost barrier that may be preventing people in our community from accessing a clinic,” he said.
Tobe’s plan is to reach out to the community and start building relationships and establishing trust. Part of that plan includes offering a familiar and calming environment at the clinic. When patients arrive, 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.
“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,” says Cruz, demonstrating a stress-releasing exhalation. “We wanted it to feel very welcoming,” she added. “You walk in and you’re just like… I feel good here.”
DAP Health continues to make sexual wellness a priority by providing more people with access to health services. “We welcome all people, period. And now we are eliminating more barriers to access sexual wellness services,” says Tobe. “We are changing the system to meet the person where they are. We continue to do this first by eliminating the cost barrier and now by opening a free Sexual Wellness Clinic to people most impacted by HIV and STIs. That is health equity.”
DAP Health advocates for healthcare for all citizens, especially those facing HIV and AIDS. The organization relies on the generosity of donors to continue funding its innovative programs and services.
For more information about DAP Health’s Vision Forward campaign, please contact Director of Development James Lindquist at [email protected] or 760-656-8413.
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