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New Short North Thrift Store Offers Unique Services

Clothing stores, even thrift shops are nothing new to the Short North. but a new store on High Street is attracting attention with its name and its mission. Out of the Closet, uses sales to help people with HIV and AIDS. Outside the large new building features a huge sign with bright magenta block letters. Inside-- "Prada, we have Coach, we have Jessica Simpson, we have Vera Wang, lots of Banana Republic… we have Golden Smith, we have Million Dollar, Million Dollars Boys is it called?...." Out of the Closet's Jessica Emerson shows shoppers the wide selection of donated and used items on display. In some ways Out of the Closet is a pretty typical thrift store. But some things are a little different. Most of the store's profits go to pay for medical treatments for people with HIV and AIDS. Jonathan Kreuyer is Out of the Closet's global manager. “When you purchase something say for a dollar, ninety-six cents of that goes back to the organization which is then utilized drugs, our doctors, lab work, test kits, everything that we need for our pharmacies and our health care division,â€? Kreuyer said. Out of the Closet and its parent company--AIDS Healthcare Foundation has 23 stores. Most of them are in California and Florida. There's one in Amsterdam. The Columbus location is the first of its kind in the Midwest.

"We know that there is a need for services in Columbus and we are expanding throughout our organization. Last year was our biggest growth that we've had. AIDS Heath care Foundationvnow is taking care of over two-hundred and fifty thousand clients and we've reached thirty-two different countries."

Out of the Closet's opening comes at a key time. Advocates are seeing a slight but worrisome rise in the number of young gay men testing positive for HIV. Peggy Anderson runs AIDS Resource Center Ohio. "It's concerning because it's an upward trend. It's not grown so much that we're in panic mode but we need to really look at this and put some resources toward it because it's continuing to grow when the other groups aren't," Anderson explained. Jon Kreuyer says at "Out of the Closet" customers can be tested for HIV without a lot drawing attention.

"It's very easy just to come and slide into the HIV testing area and really not even be even seen. Your know people think they went to the bathroom or they went to look at books or they went over there to look at the bric-a-brac. So it's just very easy and comfortable of a place to be tested at."

Columbus Operations manager Joseph Terrill says he uses any tactic necessary to encourage people to get tested. He recalled a group of teenage boys who were reluctant to be tested because of the stigma. “My response to them was 'That's right, I guess it's not for you because it's only for people that are actually sexually active.' They all got lined up and got tested," Terrill said with a smile. Health care officials estimate there are 3800 people with HIV living in Franklin County. Up to 12-hundred new cases are diagnosed in Ohio each year.