Something that comes out of one person’s closet might make it back into yours via the newest thrift store in the Short North.
Out of the Closet Thrift store, located at 1230 N. High Street, offers discount clothing, free HIV and STD testing and a fully functioning pharmacy for HIV medications.
Columbus recently welcomed the “Out of the Closet” Thrift Store and AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) pharmacy with its grand opening on Oct. 19. Complete with a pink brick facade, it is the first of its kind not only in Ohio, but also in all of the Midwest.
Calling the opening of the store the “maiden voyage” into the Midwest, AHF President Michael Weinstein discussed the importance of expanding the stores to Ohio.
“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,” Weinstein said, according to Business Wire.
With about 20 other locations, based mainly in California and Florida, the Out of the Closet store provides direct care with free HIV testing services and AHF pharmacy access.
Carrie Peoples, the head of sales for Columbus’ Out of the Closet location noted the importance of the mission of the organization.
“It’s very different from normal retail or department stores,” Peoples said. “We operate strictly on donations … 96 cents of every dollar that we sell here goes right back into the organization — it helps pay for the pharmacy, for the medication.”
Jeremy Toney, the head manager of the Columbus location, said the Out of the Closet stores offer a wide variety of items, including clothing, furniture, books, glassware, tableware and kitchen utensils.
“Out of the Closet has a sort of ‘hidden treasure’ theme,” Toney said. “It’s not your average thrift store … It’s a little high-end, but you still have your thrift store items here and there but you find a lot of high-end designer clothes, new stuff, and … the people who donate to Out of the Closet tend to donate more expensive items, more usable items and things of that nature.”
Prices at Out of the Closet range from 50 cents to $200, Toney said.
Along with the High Street location, AHF recently opened the Columbus AHF Healthcare Center at Mount Carmel Hospital West in January, which is one of 34 full-service AHF facilities nationwide that provides additional care, medications, doctors and specialists, according to Business Wire.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, approximately 3,800 people are currently living with HIV in Franklin County as of June 2013, based on 2011 data. More than 1 million people currently have HIV in the U.S., and one out of five people living with HIV are not aware of the infection, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services.
Shela Fobellah, a fourth-year in nursing, said it is convenient to have a nearby HIV test center and pharmacy for Columbus 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. “If they are just going shopping, and they just so happen to decide to get an HIV test, it will make it seem like they aren’t going so much out of their way just to get that done.”
Based in Los Angeles, the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is a global organization that provides care and advocacy to more than 200,000 patients in 28 countries, according to its website. Out of the Closet and AHF recommend getting tested every 6 months for people who are sexually active, use intravenous drugs or have been exposed to HIV.