What Health and Wellness Means for Our Community
In just a few short months, the world has become aware of the growing healthcare crisis associated with the monkeypox virus, with most of the known cases being among men who have sex with men.
Let’s get some facts straight (so to speak) first: human monkeypox virus (hMPXV) spreads mainly through skin-to-skin contact and anyone can contract it. However, in this outbreak it has spread like wildfire through sexual networks like the way HIV did in the LGBTQ+ community. It did not take long for media coverage to focus on this aspect of the disease, which felt like history repeating itself.
As with HIV/AIDS, those contracting monkeypox were being stigmatized because of misinformation about how it was transmitted. During the AIDS epidemic, CAMP Rehoboth was on the front lines with other organizations, like AIDS Delaware, educating our community about how HIV was transmitted, where to get compassionate care, and urging state and Federal government officials to make HIV/AIDS a priority.
CAMP Rehoboth’s efforts to combat HIV/AIDS were core to its mission of health and wellness. Over time, CAMP Rehoboth became a trusted partner with the state of Delaware and for more than a decade has been contracted to provide free, confidential HIV testing, condom distribution, and education across Sussex County. Delaware’s Division of Public Health (DPH) has attributed the state’s low transmission rate to the services CAMP Rehoboth has provided.
Since the onset of monkeypox, CAMP Rehoboth has been in constant contact with DPH, ensuring we could share accurate information about the virus, and how people could gain access to the limited supply of vaccination slots. We also communicated that our community was frustrated by the US government’s slow response to roll out sufficient doses, and were confused by mixed messaging about how hMPXV is spread.
Because of this close partnership, we jointly developed a plan of action that included hosting a town hall at CAMP Rehoboth where health officials answered questions about the disease and what the state was doing about it. The following week CAMP Rehoboth was designated a state-sponsored vaccination clinic where 200 doses were made available to members of our community.
This is an example of important services CAMP Rehoboth is able to provide. Thanks to financial and volunteer support from members and donors, we continue to be the heart of the community.
Wesley Combs is CAMP Rehoboth Board President.
In the wake of both COVID and monkeypox’s impact on the LGBTQ+ community, the board of directors recognizes that CAMP Rehoboth’s health and wellness role is more important than ever. As we finalize the details on the upcoming strategic planning process, this will be one of the many questions to which we will seek answers as CAMP Rehoboth redefines what health and wellness means to our community.
CAMP Rehoboth Board Vice President Leslie Ledogar is leading this critically important initiative and I asked her to provide an update on the project as well as what questions we are seeking to answer.
Wes: What are the steps in the strategic planning process and what is the status?
Leslie: Strategic planning starts with getting guidance from the right experts. I am encouraged by the strong interest in the Strategic Planning Consultant RFP. As soon as the Board selects a consultant, we will form a taskforce of board members, staff, and key stakeholders and volunteers who will begin the data gathering phase in the last quarter of 2022, starting with updating the 2019 needs assessment and landscape assessment. Thereafter, the Board will undertake the planning phase, which will result in a final strategic plan that will serve as CAMP’s roadmap for the next three to five years.
Wes: Traditionally, our health and wellness programs have focused on HIV, smoking cessation, and mental health. What are you hearing from people about what else CAMP Rehoboth could be doing in this area?
Leslie: I am hearing that all three of these areas of focus continue to remain relevant. Unfortunately, I am told that some LGBTQ+ people, particularly lesbians and transgender people, avoid the most basic of preventive care, such as routine health screenings, because the care is not delivered in a culturally sensitive way. Additionally, Sussex County has experienced unprecedented growth as all types of folks, including LGBTQ+ people, retire to our lovely beach towns. A clearer understanding of the shifting demographics and interests of our community will be critical to the strategic planning process.
Wes: As a small organization with limited staff and budget, how will this process help identify and prioritize the most important needs?
Leslie: From the national to the local levels, LGBTQ+ community centers like CAMP Rehoboth are finding themselves at a critical inflection point. Large segments of the LGBTQ+ community and communities in general are awake as never before; they are marching for Black Lives Matter, for women’s rights, and for LGBTQ+ Pride. CAMP is a strong and respected part of that ecosystem—together, we must figure out where we best fit and with whom to best partner going forward so that we may continue to provide the services most vital to our community. ▼