Desert AIDS Project isn’t letting COVID-19 get in the way of HIV testing for those who need it at recovery centers and treatment facilities. Although social distancing measures have required Community Health personnel to cease in-person groups until further notice, an innovative approach by DAP will provide 500 HIV self-test kits to these facilities and treatment centers, preventing dangerous delays in HIV testing. These tests are grant-funded.
Counselors at recovery centers and treatment facilities in the Coachella Valley are accustomed to experts from DAP visiting them to conduct HIV testing, treatment, and education onsite for their clients.
For anyone seeking services at the DAP campus, HIV testing there remains completely safe and open during this health crisis. But self-HIV testing is also available for routine testers who do not want to come into public for their HIV testing.
Anyone interested in finding out more should call April Cruz, diagnostic testing and outreach manager at (760) 656-8425.
Follow up support and linkage to ongoing care with DAP is always offered to anyone testing positive for HIV.
The CDC recommends that offering HIV testing at recovery centers and treatment facilities is highly effective to identify HIV positive individuals who are unaware they are HIV positive, opening a crucial window of opportunity to link them to life saving care.
Without routine testing, we cannot end HIV in the Coachella Valley. But for people in residential recovery, or who are incarcerated, access to HIV testing during the COVID-19 crisis has largely stopped.
Combined with HIV education Zoom sessions, counselors from DAP will complement the self-HIV tests by making a connection that can inspire personal change in those who need it most.
Zoom meetings are being used to make sure DAP Community Health educators like Jose De La Cruz can still talk to groups and their counselors in a communal setting, encouraging them to consider their health and recovery, and then offering them practical tools to do so.
“I wanted to continue the work I’ve been doing for more than 25 years at DAP,” De La Cruz said. “At least for now, videoconferencing and self-swab is the most effective way we can keep helping people in recovery during COVID-19.”
People with substance abuse disorders or who misuse substances, people who trade sex for drugs, and people who have sex while intoxicated, are at high risk for becoming infected with HIV. (CDC)
According to De La Cruz, many entering these settings have never been tested for HIV.
More than half of Americans aged 18–64 have never been tested for HIV, which makes it more likely they will spread it to unsuspecting partners. Not knowing has other another pitfall; one in three Americans who test positive for HIV is tested too late to get the full advantage of treatment. (CDC)
“With the emphasis on preventing the spread of COVID-19, we don’t want our services to be lost,” said De La Cruz. “We knew we needed to find a way quickly to prevent a lapse in reaching people while they are already trying to get help.”
This is also an opportunity for patient-facing staff at the recovery facilities to add HIV testing and training to their pre and post counseling skillsets, which typically cover other risk factors in an overall treatment plan. DAP provides training for counselors in these settings, with the goal of changing lives and stopping the spread of HIV and STIs in the Coachella Valley.
Parking Lot Van Testing at DAP
We have parked our mobile testing van in the DAP lot and it’s open to provide continuous access to HIV, HCV and STI testing and treatment, plus access to PrEP and PEP. The DOCK is still open in our Green Clinic, but some of our clients feel better accessing services without entering a building. This is also a great way to get linked into primary medical and behavioral healthcare if needed. Why not have a chat in the fresh air with one of our specialists about your health? For more information, please call
DAP is still fighting the HIV, STI and HCV epidemics amid the COVID-19 crisis.
“We have increased our range of testing to fit our clients’ needs, whether it’s in the mobile clinic, The DOCK, and for specifically HIV, this self-test,” said C.J. Tobe, director of Community Health. “We will do whatever it takes to offer HIV, STI and HCV testing, and then link anyone to treatment immediately if they need it.”
What Is A Syndemic?
Together, HIV, HCV and STIs create a syndemic—a set of linked health problems that interact synergistically and exacerbate poor health outcomes.
For example, having an STD increases the likelihood of acquiring HIV. Among people who are living with HCV and HIV, HCV progresses faster and more than triples the risk for liver disease, liver failure, and liver related death. These epidemics are also driven by similar social and economic conditions and disproportionately impact many of the same disadvantaged communities.
About End The Epidemics
The California HIV/AIDS Policy Research Centers, together with HIV, viral hepatitis, and STD community-based organizations across California, have launched a community-driven effort to inform development of a statewide plan to end the HIV, HCV, and STD epidemics in California. What makes this initiative innovative and unique – in addition to community leadership – is its ambitious goal of addressing these health conditions as a syndemic – a set of linked health problems that interact synergistically and exacerbate poor health outcomes. The syndemic approach differs from the biomedical approach in that it treats diseases concurrently and also addresses the social determinants of health that drive these epidemics. To learn more, visit: www.chprc.org/end-the-epidemics/
· Learn more about DAP’s COVID-19 Emergency Response at: desertaidsproject.org/support-our-mission/make-a-donation/
· For a Q&A on COVID-19 at: desertaidsproject.org/questions-and-answers-on-coronavirus/