WILTON MANORS, FL. (February 4, 2013) – When the Out of the Closet Thrift Store in the South Florida city of Wilton Manors first opened its doors on January 25, 2008, it brought to the community an opportunity to shop with a cause; to access free, private, and friendly HIV and STD testing; and to fill prescriptions in an AHF Pharmacy where revenue generated is funneled into good works performed by leading global nonprofit AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), not corporate bank accounts.
The store celebrated its fifth anniversary on the true day (Jan. 25) with special discounts throughout the store, but the real celebration of this milestone was held on Saturday, February 2 in the Wilton Manors City Hall parking lot across the street from the store. The festive block party, hosted by AHF in partnership with Infinity Lounge, featured music, barbecue, a cash grab booth, a photo booth, go-go dancers, raffle prizes, giveaways, and more. But the most important part of the Fifth Anniversary Block Party took place in the two free mobile HIV testing vans AHF had on-site, because inside those vans Floridians were able to know their HIV status in just sixty seconds thanks to the bioLytical Laboratories’ INSTITM Rapid HIV Test.
“We are proud to be the first organization not only to utilize the INSTI test in the United States, but to be the group that brings this important medical advancement to South Florida,” said Jack Carrel, Director of Public Health for AHF’s Southern Bureau. “This sixty-second option eliminates the anxiety that comes with waiting 15 minutes for one’s results – our aim is that the ease of the test will increase the number of people getting tested, ensuring that everyone who is currently HIV-positive will be aware of their status and can immediately be linked to lifesaving follow-up treatment and care, if need be.”
AHF operates seven healthcare centers in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Jacksonville, as well as two mobile healthcare units.
The cutting-edge testing technology of INSTITM has been used in developing countries throughout Africa and in India for about four years, but was just introduced to America for the first time on September 22, when AHF unveiled the rapid test with ten mobile testing vans at a launch event in West Hollywood. 183 people – of which only one was identified as HIV positive – were tested that day using the speedy tool, which requires only a drop of blood and sixty seconds to give a person 99.9% accurate results on their HIV status.
AHF has been involved in HIV treatment, testing, and advocacy in Florida for over a decade, and the Foundation operates seven healthcare centers and a total of four Out of the Closet Thrift Stores throughout South Florida. Though the nonprofit utilized INSTITM Rapid Tests at two events in December – a testing event held at South Beach club TWIST and at the Florida Jingle Ball concert – the Fifth Anniversary Block Party this weekend marks the official launch of INSTITM testing in South Florida, provided exclusively through AHF and available for free at their Out of the Closet Thrift Stores and in their mobile testing units.
In addition to learning their HIV status with this quick and easy new test, people who get tested through AHF will also have immediate access to on-site counselors providing emotional support and information about treatment options for anyone who tests positive.
“They don’t just come in, get tested, and we throw them out. We take care of them,” Paul Stanley, the District Manager of Retail Operations, told the South Florida Gay News earlier this year. Stanley worked his way up to this position after starting as a cashier at the Wilton Manors Out of the Closet Thrift Store when it opened five years ago.
“Five years of HIV testing and fundraising through the thrift shop in Wilton Manors is truly something to celebrate,” said Michael Kahane, AHF Southern Bureau Chief. “Wilton Manors is faced with an exceptionally high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in relation to the rest of the state, so being able to provide testing and access to information and medication all within the friendly fundraising environment of our Out of the Closet store is important not only to AHF, but to the members of this community we serve.”
AHF operates 23 Out of the Closet Thrift Stores, 22 of which are in California and Florida and the last of which stands as the organization’s only international thrift store location in Amsterdam.