Los Angeles-Area AIDS Healthcare Foundation Thrift Stores Offer Free HIV Testing
Out of the Closet, a Los Angeles-based chain of thrift stores funded by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, began offering customers free HIV testing in 1997 and now has expanded the service to six of its 17 stores, the Los Angeles Times reports. The six sites were chosen by the foundation -- which uses the stores' $1.2 million in annual profits to fund a nursing home and 13 HIV/AIDS clinics in California, New York and Florida -- because they are located in communities with a "higher incidence" of HIV. Last year, the stores administered 7,000 tests free-of-charge and without appointments. The program's success lies in the convenience and anonymity of the tests, according to foundation President Michael Weinstein. The store atmosphere is "less intimidating," and people do not have to supply their full name. "We've changed the way people view HIV testing. We've taken the scare out of it and made it a casual, everyday activity," he said. This year, the Los Angeles County Office of AIDS Programs and Policy is funding the $600,000-a-year operation, which used to be funded by the foundation. "There is the ability to reach significant at-risk populations -- specifically men who have sex with men," Charles Henry, OAPP director, said, adding that the confidential testing is "important" because it "attract[s] people especially concerned with maintaining anonymity" (Perera, Los Angeles Times, 11/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.