January 5, 2012
Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation says it soon will begin construction on a thrift store, pharmacy, and HIV testing site in Columbus. AHF has already closed on the property at the corner of N. High Street and E. 5th Avenue. The group also has plans for a medical office, the AHF Healthcare Center, near Mount Carmel West Hospital, and anticipates a caseload of 600 patients, said Adam Ouderkirk, AHF's regional director.
"We take HIV patients regardless of ability to pay, whether you have a Cadillac [health insurance] plan or no plan," Ouderkirk said. The nonprofit Out of the Closet Thrift Store and AHF Pharmacy will generate money for AHF's mission.
"It's a model that's worked in different parts of the country, and we think it will be successful in Columbus," said Michael Weinstein, AHF's president.
While local advocates welcome the additional services, one group wished AHF had done more to collaborate. "We knew nothing about [AHF's] intent until three weeks ago," said Bill Hardy, president and CEO of AIDS Resource Center of Ohio (ARC Ohio). "To me, there was not adequate groundwork."
ARC Ohio merged in 2011 with the Columbus AIDS Task Force and had been discussing plans for a health care center and pharmacy, Hardy said. "Part of the consolidation was to expand services," he said.
There is plenty of room for service providers, said Weinstein. "Unfortunately, there is no shortage of patients to go around," he said. "We are bringing our own resources to bear."