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Ohio: Out of the Closet Thrift Store Provides HIV Testing

November 8, 2013

This article was reported by the The Lantern (Ohio State Univ).

The Lantern recently reported on a Columbus, Ohio, thrift store that provides more than the sale of used items. The Out of the Closet Thrift Store also provides free HIV and STD testing and a pharmacy, run by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), that can fill HIV medication prescriptions. This is the first thrift store of its kind both in Ohio and the Midwest region of the country; approximately 20 other similar stores exist nationwide, mostly in Florida and California.

The store is a "maiden voyage" for the Midwest, according to Michael Weinstein, AHF president. "In addition to the direct services provided and funds raised at this site," Weinstein said, "we believe it is especially important for us to be coming to Ohio, which became ground zero for many AIDS advocates last year when the state government attempted to save money by diminishing access to lifesaving medications."

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, more than 1 million Americans have HIV, and 20 percent of them are unaware they have it. Shela Fobellah, a fourth-year nursing student, discussed the convenience of having an HIV test center and pharmacy nearby for residents. "There's such a stigma behind (getting tested for HIV), and it will be good for those people who feel uncomfortable going to a clinic or hospital to get a test," Fobellah said.

Thrift store staff members stated that the store has high-end merchandise, such as designer clothes, and a wide variety of furniture, household and kitchen items, and books. They also said that the store operates strictly on donations and almost all of the profit goes back into the store and helps fund the pharmacy.

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