There was even a baby. Dozens of people, including representatives from the city of Dallas and Dallas County showed up Saturday morning to support the opening of Out of the Closet, AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s new thrift store on Cedar Spring Road.
But the store, beaming with a vivid paint job that transformed the former Union Jack into chic thrift, offers more than clothing and household goods. HIV testing is available and a full-service pharmacy will be added in three to six months. AHF Regional Director Bret Camp told the crowd that AHF has 22 clinics in the U.S., two of them in Dallas and Fort Worth.
“AHF serves 300,000 patients worldwide and over 4,000 a day in HIV clinics,” he said.
The return of an HIV clinic to that block on Cedar Springs, prompted one county official to say that the fight against HIV has returned to where it began.
“This is where the HIV fight began,” said Zachary Thompson, director of Dallas County Department of Health and Human Services. “… but we still have a long way to go.”
Dallas City Councilmen Adam Medrano and Philip Kingston were there, along with Rod Givens, District Director for Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson’s office, and Tony Vedda, president and CEO of North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. The store’s opening coincides with the Cedar Springs Merchant’s Association’s weekend of the Cedar Springs Arts Fest and Easter in the Park. Cedar Springs Road will be closed today from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for the arts fest.
The Out of the Closet Thrift Store that will be operated by the largest AIDS research and treatment nonprofit in the U.S. is set to open April 19 on Cedar Springs Road.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation took the recently closed Union Jack store and has been converting it into a building that will house not only a thrift store but a pharmacy and an HIV testing center as well. It’s a business model AHF uses in Florida, California and Ohio, but it’s the first in Texas.
“We have been operating thrift stores for 20-plus years,” said AHF Regional Director Bret Camp. “They’re very successful, and they have become icons and hubs in those cities’ gay neighborhoods.”
While the community has convenient access to other thrift stores, pharmacies and HIV testing centers, Out of the Closet is the first to offer what some might call an unusual amalgam of all those services.
“I’ve never gone to a thrift store that has a pharmacy and HIV testing,” Warren Wells said. “I kind of like it because I know there are people who don’t want to go to other places to get tested. They’re afraid someone will see them going in there.”
Camp said the model is unique and is designed to build community and unity and to expand access to HIV testing.
TOUCH UPS | A contractor paints a door at Out of the Closet, which is set to open April 16. (Steve Ramos/ Dallas Voice)
“Someone saying they don’t want to go into a clinic to be tested for HIV speaks to the amount of stigma that is still associated with HIV,” Camp said. “AHF is providing multiple options, which include clinical, mobile or the thrift stores. We need all those options to eliminate the gaps in the service delivery system.”
The thrift store will be open Monday-Saturday from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. and on Sundays from noon to 6 p.m. Camp said six employees have been hired, and they have a truck that will be used to pick up larger donations. The store will sell clothing, furniture and household goods. Camp said 96 cents of every dollar earned goes back into AHF services. The pharmacy, set to open at a later date, will be a full-service one.
“Opening the store where Union Jack used to be is part of the rebirth of Cedar Springs,” Camp said. “There’s new movement coming in there and new energy. We as a community are re-establishing our epicenter.”
A few doors down from Out of the Closet, renovation continues on other stores. A juice bar and a florist are expected to open soon.
“Any kind of movement is positive,” said Tony Vedda, president and CEO of North Texas GLBT Chamber of Commerce. “The fact that Out of the Closet got in there so soon after Union Jack closed is pretty amazing.”
Vedda also supports the idea of an HIV testing center inside the retail store.
“People who have a phobia might not want to go in a clinic,” he said. “The fact that they have this thrift store model to fund and support their organization is good and smart. It’ll add some new life to the street.”
One block away, the Nelson Tebedo Community Clinic, operated by Resource Center, also offers HIV testing. Is it competition?
“We are anticipating that the people who are accessing testing in Out of the Closet are not the same population that is accessing testing at other locations,” Camp said. “We [agencies] all have different populations that want to get tested. We’re trying to make testing more mainstream. By putting it on The Strip, we can eliminate the stigma.”
Resource Center Cece Cox agrees that people should have choices about where to be tested for HIV.
“Given our 30-year track record and our highly qualified staff, people will still have a positive experience with Resource Center,” Cox said. “There are a lot of people who need to be tested. I know Resource Center does it in a very efficient, productive and compassionate way and has been doing that for many years.”
Cox added that having another place to get tested, such as Out of the Closet, might appeal to some people.
“It’s always a good thing when more people get tested,” she said.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition April 11, 2014.
During his absence, a new dental suite was outfitted and named for him at Nelson-Tebedo Clinic on Cedar Springs Road.
Last month, AHF opened its first Texas clinic at AIDS Outreach Center in Fort Worth. Camp will work out of the office at Medical City Dallas where a second area clinic is planned. The nonprofit organization is looking to expand into Austin and San Antonio and possibly Houston in the near future.
Camp said what attracted him to AHF was how client-centered the agency is.
“AHF provides cutting-edge medicine and advocacy regardless of ability to pay,” he said.
AHF is expected to open a clinic at Medical City to serve a Far North Dallas area that currently has no AIDS services and is one of the city’s hard hit areas with new cases of HIV.
Allan Gould, right, executive director of AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County, today announced that the combined boards of AOC and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation have signed a letter of intent to plan and develop the Community Healthcare Clinic in Fort Worth specifically to offer medical treatment to people with HIV/AIDS.
Gould told Dallas Voice this afternoon that “if all goes as planned, we anticipate that the clinic will be open by April 2012.”
In a written statement released today, Gould said the clinic will “underscore AOC’s mission of being the ‘one stop shop’ addressing the HIV client’s vital medical, emotional and social service needs. He also said plans are in the works to implement a mobile health care van to meet the needs of those with HIV/AIDS living in rural areas.”
He said that estimates are the clinic will initially serve more than 400 individuals when it opens.
Based in Los Angeles, AIDS Healthcare Foundation is the nation’s largest provider of HIV/AIDS medical care, offering cutting-edge medical care to more than 27,000 people in the U.S., Africa, Central America and Asia, regardless of the patient’s ability to pay, according to AOC’s press release. In the U.S., AHF operates 14 healthcare centers and 11 pharmacies in California, Washington, D.C., and Florida.
LOS ANGELES — An adult film performer has tested positive for HIV, causing porn producers to shut down shoots in Southern California as the diagnosis is confirmed through re-testing, according to an industry group.
Free Speech Coalition executive director Diane Duke told The Los Angeles Times on Monday that her group became aware of the HIV case Saturday.
A series of tests were being conducted on the performer to confirm the case before anyone the performer might have spread the illness to will be notified to get tested, Duke told The Associated Press.
She didn’t know how long that would take.
Duke declined to release the performer’s name, age or gender, citing the person’s federal right to medical privacy. She also declined to say how her group learned of the case.
The case was found in an out-of-state clinic that doesn’t report to California health officials, said Duke.
If the initial case is confirmed, the group will ask two generations of the person’s sexual partners to get tested, meaning those who had sex with the performer and the sexual partners of those who had sex with the performer.
The voluntary industry shutdown affects porn producers in the San Fernando Valley, the heart of the multi-billion dollar American porn industry, and includes Hustler and Evil Angel’s productions.
The porn industry was shut down similarly in late 2010, after porn actor Derrick Burts was diagnosed HIV positive.
Burts has since gone on to advocate for the mandatory use of condoms in porn with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The health advocacy group and state workplace safety officials say state law mandates porn performers to use condoms to protect themselves under the same set of rules that require nurses to wear gloves in hospitals when dealing with bodily fluids.
Cal/OSHA is working to clarify the regulation to make it more specific to porn.
Earlier this month, the health advocacy group announced that it will gather 41,138 petition signatures to get the issue of condoms in porn on the June 2012 ballot.
The ballot measure would ask Los Angeles residents whether porn producers must require performers to use condoms on shoots as a condition of getting a filming permit.
“The question remains how many performers must become infected with HIV and other serious STDs before the industry will clean up its act and government will do the right thing?” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
The group has unsuccessfully pushed California and Los Angeles County officials to tighten enforcement of condom use on porn sets through legislative attempts, lawsuits and regulatory complaints.
After 3 decades, California’s workplace safety officials are finally considering mandates in the porn industry, and it’s about time
DAVID WEBB | The Rare Reporter
After three decades of devastation wrought by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the state of California’s workplace safety officials are now pondering whether safe sex practices by the porn industry should be mandated in state code.
California’s Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board recently released a 17-page proposal to the Associated Press that details all of the dangers porn stars and other workers on the set face from body fluids and waste matter produced during the course of the filming. The proposed mandate, which includes the required use of condoms and the utilization of other safety measures to prevent genital and oral contact with blood and other body fluids, will be discussed at a public meeting June 7 in Los Angeles.
In addition to the use of condoms, porn producers would be required to make sure condoms are not reused with multiple partners, make sure razors are not used by multiple people, make sure sex toys are sterile, showers are taken between scenes, medical services including tests and vaccines are employed and soiled laundry is handled properly.
All of this comes on the heels of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation lobbying for the state to require condoms be used on porn sets and the advocacy group’s filing of a formal complaint to the state in 2009.
In March of this year, the state board fined porn king Larry Flynt’s Hustler company $14,175 for three instances of failing to require condoms and of other health risks on the set. A lesser-known company, Forsaken Pictures, was fined $12,150 for similar violations.
The state cited the same laws that require hospitals to provide nurses and other technicians with protective tools, such as plastic gloves, to make its case against the porn producers.
And if the length of time it has taken for the governor-appointed, seven-member safety board to come up with a set of laws specifically addressing the porn industry isn’t amazing enough, the Associated Press reports that two straight porn industry hotshots are not too happy with the idea.
Flynt said porn viewers don’t want to see condoms on actors because it interferes with their fantasies. Vivid Entertainment founder Steven Hirsch warned the laws would drive California’s multi-billion dollar porn industry to other states to produce videos.
Hirsch’s comments are interesting because the queen of gay porn, DJ drag diva Chi Chi LaRue — who, in addition to directing and producing porn videos owns a sex shop on Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood — once produced movies for a Vivid Entertainment company. She reportedly abandoned her three-year successful career in producing straight sex porn videos for Vivid Video, a division of Hirsch’s company, in 2006 because the company refused to require the use of condoms.
It seems that LaRue was reacting to what she witnessed in the late 1980s when she worked for gay porn company Catalina Video and saw many members of the gay porn industry dropping dead left and right.
I encountered LaRue in a West Hollywood gay bar about a year ago, and it was a memorable event. I was trying to get a picture of her and a few tidbits of information to write something about the experience — but she was having none of it. We parted with her thinking I was an annoying pest and my thinking she was an uppity bitch. I’m sure we were both right.
But I’ve got to commend LaRue for the stand she took about safe sex. Like LaRue, I’ve watched countless friends and other associates over the years suffer and die from HIV infections. I’ve also seen attitudes in recent years relax about the danger of HIV infections.
Too many young people simply don’t think it can happen to them, and the epidemic continues to rage.
There reportedly are still many gay porn videos being produced that do not include the use of condoms, especially now that there are so many amateurs out there with personal video cameras. Some of them are billed as “bareback” productions in an effort to entice viewers, as a scan of Internet gay porn sites recently revealed.
That’s just about the last message we need to be sending to young LGBT people, and I would like to think that porn producers would want to take a similar stand as LaRue. Of course, that’s not going to happen because we are talking about people who want to make lots of money, and some of them don’t care who gets hurt in the process.
That’s why I think the regulations in California are necessary, and I applaud the AIDS advocacy group for taking the initiative to see it happen. Actually, I think porn videos should require warnings about the mind-boggling array of infections that can be contracted during unprotected sex.
And if California’s porn producers start flocking to Texas or whatever state to avoid the regulations, I hope AIDS advocacy groups in those states follow the California group’s lead and demand the same safety regulations.
David Webb is a veteran journalist who has covered LGBT issues for the mainstream and alternative media for three decades. Email him at email@example.com.