Sex workers in the Coachella Valley already live in the shadows, and the pandemic has made it harder than ever to reach them for help and services. It might sound tempting to just stop trying—but that won’t work if we want to prevent human suffering around us.

That’s why DAP Health has been recruiting community health specialists with sex-worker experience. It’s a bold but necessary step.

The practice of hiring from the patient populations it serves means that DAP Health patients and clients are helped by people who have walked in their shoes. Empathy and compassion are always included.

Stigma and criminalization have always created barriers for sex workers seeking safety, health care and services, and DAP is increasing outreach to this community. Hiring employees with sex-worker experience is a move to build credibility and solidarity in the sex-worker community, which is growing more desperate for relief as the pandemic continues.  

With social distancing causing in-person business to drop off, and criminalization of their work making unemployment benefits impossible, sex workers are facing increased health-equity challenges that threaten them and their partners.

“We understand and care about people who survive through sex work,” says C.J. Tobe, DAP Health’s community health director. “Stigma surrounding sex is very much alive, and this pandemic has exacerbated the spotlight on it.”

STI rates remain the highest they have been for California in three decades. Current and former sex workers experience more violence, legal entanglements and social stigmatization than most people—all of which make it harder to obtain health care. Other serious barriers include poverty, substance use, disability, immigration status, sexism, racism, transphobia and homophobia.

Because of all this, access to mental-health resources for sex workers is also much-needed. This, in part, is why the DAP Behavioral Health Department is doubling its capacity to see patients. The team is skilled at addressing many of the challenges affecting sex workers, and services are available both in-person and via virtual visits.

DAP Health’s holistic model aims to address all situations that that can lead to negative health outcomes, especially those related to the pandemic. This includes food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation and access to health care.

DAP Health has been working to expand its role in public health and health equity—in service to anyone who needs care in the Coachella Valley. We serve more than 9,700 patients, offering medical and mental healthcare, STI testing and treatment, dentistry, pharmacy services and lab services. We want our patients to be in optimal health, so we also offer social services, support groups, alternative therapies and other wellness services. Excellent HIV care is provided by the largest team of specialized clinicians in the area.       

DAP opened one of California’s first COVID clinics and hotlines to offer screening, testing and treatment. DAP is also working to address social problems that are causing negative health outcomes during this pandemic, like food and housing insecurity, joblessness, isolation and access to ongoing health care.  

DAP’s sexual health clinic offers STI testing and treatment, pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and HIV and HCV testing. DAP has earned Charity Navigator’s highest rating for the 12 consecutive year—landing DAP in the top 6 percent of nonprofits rated. The distinction recognizes that DAP exceeds industry standards in terms of financial health, accountability and transparency.      

Read more about DAP Health and its expanding role in public health and health equity, at To become a patient, visit Jack Bunting is the public relations specialist for DAP Health.