THE DOCK – For Your Sexual Health

By | March 12, 2015 at 1:20 am | No comments | Columns, Health & Fitness

New clinic opens March 16 at Desert AIDS Project Treating sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs) while expanding access to HIV testing

A handicapped-access ramp on the south side of the Desert AIDS Project building at 1695 N. Sunrise Way at Vista Chino in Palm Springs will help ensure that everyone will have access to The DOCK, a new sexual health clinic opening Monday, March 16.

That ramp is within the loading dock area of the Lila & Morris Linsky Food Depot at D.A.P. – part of the reason for the new clinic’s name. “We also thought it was a fun play on words for the “docs” – the doctors – that people are going to find at this new clinic,” said David Brinkman, CEO of Desert AIDS Project. “We felt driven to open the clinic for three important reasons. First, it’s central to D.A.P.’s mission of not only treating HIV but in preventing its spread. Second, many other sexually-transmitted diseases are affecting the Coachella Valley at epidemic rates. And third, we need to reach out to those who are sexually-active – and may be having unprotected sex – because they are at high risk for infection. A full-service sexual health clinic addresses all three reasons.”

Services of The DOCK will include free and confidential HIV rapid testing; testing and treatment for other sexually-transmitted infections, including syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, human papillomavirus (HPV,) and Hepatitis B and C; and well-woman exams, including breast and pelvic exams, and pap smears. The DOCK will accept all private insurance, as well as Medicare and Medi-Cal. Uninsured income-qualified patients can receive care at reduced costs and will not be turned away for inability to pay.

The new sexual health clinic will also serve as a comprehensive resource for those interested in learning more about PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) and PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis), two HIV prevention tools recommended by the U.S. Public Health Service for HIV-negative individuals who are at substantial risk for acquiring HIV.

Ø PrEP is a daily medication, endorsed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “a powerful HIV prevention tool and can be combined with condoms and other prevention methods to provide even greater protection than when used alone.”

Ø PEP is preventive medical treatment started immediately after exposure to HIV to help protect against infection and disease.

“People with STDs are medically at greater risk of acquiring HIV, so all of the services offered at The DOCK are inter-related and important to sexual health,” said Dr. Steven Scheibel, medical director of both Desert AIDS Project and The DOCK. “Regardless of the reason that anyone comes to The DOCK – whether for STD testing and treatment or because they’re considering PrEP – knowing their HIV status establishes a baseline for their standard of care.”

That standard of care is a basic tenet of Get Tested Coachella Valley, the coalition of 50+ community partners, seeking to get all adults and adolescents in the region tested initially – and regularly thereafter – for HIV. The campaign’s first year efforts have already begun to help turn the tide of dramatically reducing the spread of HIV, as recognized by the Clinton Health Matters Initiative, the CDC, and the California State Office of AIDS. “As a full-service sexual health clinic, The DOCK is one more welcome – and very important – addition to our region-wide effort to stop the spread of HIV,” said Susan Unger, project director for Get Tested Coachella Valley.

Free HIV testing and PrEP counseling will be available on a walk-in basis Monday through Friday, except holidays, from 8:00 AM – 5:00 PM with no appointment necessary. For those who would prefer a scheduled time, appointments can be made – between 4:30 PM and 6:30 PM on Monday or Thursday only – by calling 760-992-0492, beginning March 16.

Those interested in starting PrEP can visit The DOCK to confirm their HIV-negative status – a requirement for beginning PrEP – as well as to receive counseling and have their questions answered, all at no cost. Those interested in considering PrEP may then schedule a follow-up appointment with a medical provider at The DOCK, who will confirm whether PrEP is appropriate and prescribe medication accordingly.

ABOUT DESERT AIDS PROJECT

Desert AIDS Project (D.A.P.) serves people living with HIV and AIDS by providing comprehensive support, including medical care, case management, and social services, like food, housing, and counseling. D.A.P. also offers free and confidential HIV testing at a number of locations throughout the communities it serves. To learn more about Desert AIDS Project, please call 760-323-2118, visit www.desertaidsproject.org or find them on Facebook, Twitter, and You Tube.

About Get Tested Coachella Valley

Get Tested Coachella Valley is a three-year, $5 million public health initiative dedicated to dramatically reducing HIV infections by making voluntary HIV testing a standard and routine medical practice and ensuring linkage to care. The campaign was launched in 2014 under the leadership of Desert AIDS Project and is driven by a coalition of more than 50 Community Partners including the Riverside County Department of Public Health; the region’s major hospitals; elected officials; and leaders of community- and faith-based organizations, educational institutions, businesses, and foundations. Additional information and resources are offered in both English and Spanish at www.gettestedcoachellavalley.org and www.haztelapruebavalledecoachella.org.

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