COLUMBUS, OHIO (October 17, 2013)⎯AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), will host a grand opening gala ceremony for its newest all-in-one facility—an Out of the Closet Thrift Store, AHF Pharmacy and HIV testing site—in the hip, Short North district of Columbus, (1230 N. High St., on the corner of N. High and 5th Ave.). The facility, which is AHF’s first retail fundraising and pharmacy operation in Ohio, is a newly built flagship location that will also serve as a hub for the organization’s advocacy in the region. The new Out of the Closet/AHF Pharmacy will complement and serve patients at the nearby AHF Healthcare Center (at Mt. Carmel West Hospital), which provides high-quality HIV/AIDS medical care and services regardless of ability to pay.
“It is a privilege to bring Ohio’s first Out of the Closet thrift store and AHF Pharmacy along with the testing services it will provide to the community—in the community—and to the City of Columbus,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “In addition to the direct services provided and funds raised at this site, 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. We want this new site to also serve as a hub of AIDS activism and social action on important policy issues that continue to affect Ohioans living with HIV/AIDS.”
“Saturday’s gala store opening will offer the chance for Ohio shoppers to be among the first to discover the unique finds and hidden treasures for which ‘Out of the Closet’ is famous,” said Jonathan Kreuyer, General Manager of Out of the Closet Stores. “With twenty-two other locations in California, Florida and New York—and one in Amsterdam—AHF’s Out of the Closet Thrift Store chain is the nation’s largest retail fundraising vehicle for HIV/AIDS medical care, and ninety-six cents of every dollar earned there will go towards providing free HIV/AIDS care to those in need.”
This newest facility also enjoys the distinction of being only the second Out of the Closet store that AHF has built from ground up. The first is in Ft. Lauderdale – upon which this newest site was modeled.
“This site will also offer free HIV testing services and be home to the newest AHF Pharmacy,” added Adam Ouderkirk, Senior Director of Program & Business Development, who oversees the region for AHF. “Together with our AHF Healthcare Center at Mount Carmel Hospital West, this Out of the Closet store offers a real opportunity to reach underserved populations with convenient HIV testing, all purpose and specialized pharmacy services, and linkage and access to HIV/AIDS medical care, as needed.”
The Columbus AHF Healthcare Center, which opened in January, is located at 815 W. Broad St., Suite 350, Columbus, OH 43222 at Mount Carmel Hospital West. AHF Pharmacy, with thirty-four locations nationwide, is a full-service facility staffed with pharmacists who specialize in HIV/AIDS medications (as well as general pharmacy services), providing clients with access to the additional specialists, medications and services they need to be as healthy as possible.
On opening day, free HIV testing will be offered throughout the day at the Out of the Closet store; thereafter, free HIV testing will be offered from 10:00am to 7:00pm, Tuesdays through Saturdays.
HIV/AIDS in Ohio
According to a report from Harvard Law School’s Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation, approximately 10,000 Ohioans are currently living with HIV, and another 8,600 individuals are living with AIDS. However, these numbers only account for people who are aware of their HIV/AIDS status, and national estimates project 20% of people living with HIV/AIDS have not been tested and are unaware of their status. According to an HIV/AIDS Surveillance Program conducted by the Ohio Department of Health, men were consistently diagnosed at a far higher rate than women between 2007 and 2011 (about 78% men to 22% women).
Consistent with national statistics, HIV/AIDS incidence was highest in Ohio’s African American population, which accounted for over 56% of new diagnoses for each of the five years tracked in the Department of Health report. Rates in the African American community have been slowly but consistently rising since 2007. Also on the rise are rates among youth aged 13-24, particularly among 20- to 24-year-olds, who went from accounting for 1% of new diagnoses in 2007 to 4% in 2011. Though the highest incidence by age was among people aged 45 – 64, those age groups showed a slow but steady decline in new diagnoses over the years studied, a trend that can only be mirrored in the younger demographics through an increase in prevention education.