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.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation has opened an STD clinic at its North Dallas office.
AHF Texas Regional Director Bret Camp said the clinic is open twice a week to offer free STD testing. In addition to checking for HIV, tests will be given for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia.
While Dallas has the highest rate of new HIV infections in the state, Camp said, Houston is ahead of Dallas with other sexually transmitted diseases. But STD rates in Dallas remain high and Camp encourages testing for them as well as for HIV.
Dallas County’s rate of chlamydia and gonorrhea increased while syphilis decreased over the previous year. Chlamydia was the most prevalent STD with 16,848 cases reported. Camp said these three STDs are all curable when caught in their early stages and much more difficult to treat if left undiagnosed.
Free testing is available at the AHF office at 7777 Forest Lane, Suite B-122 on the Medical City campus on Mondays from 3–7 p.m. and Thursdays from 3–6 p.m. To schedule an appointment, call 972-383-1066.
AHF has offices in Fort Worth and Dallas and is the largest provider of healthcare to people with HIV in the United States.
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.
People with HIV/AIDS are at greater risk of developing severe complications from West Nile Virus, which has led to 10 deaths in Dallas County this summer. But people with HIV/AIDS could also face greater risk from exposure to the chemicals used in aerial spraying to combat the virus.
“The same people they’re trying to protect are the same people who are sensitive to the chemicals being dropped,” said Bret Camp, health services director for Resource Center Dallas.
One open letter signed by 26 doctors and other experts in 2001 said the chemical agents used in aerial spraying contain neurotoxins and can be dangerous to the treated area. The letter, distributed by groups opposed to mosquito spraying in New York City, specifically listed “immunosuppressed individuals, such as patients with AIDS and cancer,” among those who may be especially vulnerable.
“INDISCRIMINATE AND UNNECESSARY SPRAYING OF ‘FRIENDLY FIRE’ PESTICIDES, ESPECIALLY IN HEAVILY POPULATED URBAN AREAS, IS FAR MORE DANGEROUS TO HUMAN HEALTH AND THE NATURAL ENVIRONMENT THAN WEST NILE VIRUS,” the letter states. “THE HEALTH OF MANY PEOPLE IS DETERIORATING AND WILL FURTHER DETERIORATE, SOMETIMES SERIOUSLY, AS A RESULT OF EXPOSURE TO ‘FRIENDLY FIRE PESTICIDES’ USED IN THE CHEMICAL WAR AGAINST MOSQUITOES. THOSE WHO ARE ESPECIALLY VULNERABLE INCLUDE CHILDREN, THE OFFSPRING OF PREGNANT WOMEN, CHEMICALLY SENSITIVE OR IMMUNO-SUPPRESSED INDIVIDUALS, SUCH AS PATIENTS WITH AIDS AND CANCER, AND THOSE SUFFERING WITH ASTHMA AND OTHER ALLERGIES.”
Bret Camp, former associate executive director for health and medical services for Resource Center Dallas, checks out the Nelson-Tebedo Clinic’s new dental suite, named in his honor on Friday, Dec. 16.
RCD’S Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox and members of the Resource Center staff gathered at the clinic for the dedication ceremony, as did Camp, who retired last summer due to health issues. The new facility and staffing was paid for by a grant from United Way. Cox said that the added chair is expected to cut waiting time for appointments from four months to less than four weeks and increase the number of clients served by 175 people to 1,155.
Camp said he completed chemotherapy treatment recently, has been given a good prognosis and is feeling strong and healthy.
Through a partnership with the Texas Department of State Health Services, Resource Center Dallas will begin HIV and STD testing on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. beginning May 21, RCD officials announced this week
Testing will be offered at the Nelson-Tebedo Community Clinic, 4012 Cedar Springs Road.
A rapid test will offer HIV results within 20 minutes. That will be confirmed through a Nucleic Acid Amplification Testing that can detect HIV as soon as 14 days after infection. The rapid test window of detection is about three months after infection.
Last year, 30 NAAT tests given at Nelson-Tebedo confirmed HIV that rapid testing did not detect. That was out of about 3,000 tests given in 2010, or 1 percent.
Bret Camp, associate executive director for health and medical services at Resource Center Dallas, said results from the NAAT test take a week and so does testing for other STDs.
Testing for syphilis is free but there is a fee for other STD tests which include chlamydia, gonorrhea and human papillomavirus. Confidential HIV testing is free. Anonymous testing through a unique identifier is at a small charge.
All results are given in person.
Although walk-ins for Saturday testing are accepted, Camp said that appointments are encouraged.
“By adding these Saturday testing hours, it will now be more convenient than ever to take charge of your health,” Camp said.
Looks like some local folks are among those who’ve put together videos for writer Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” project on YouTube. The project, launched in response to the recent rash of suicides by gay teens, is aimed at LGBT youth and features adults explaining that no matter how bad things may seem, they really do get better. Those who’ve recorded messages for the project include Resource Center Dallas’ Rafael McDonnell and Bret Camp, and the Rev. Stephen Sprinkle of Brite Divinity School in Fort Worth. Do you know of other local folks who’ve recorded these? If so, feel free to put the link in the comments.
Later today, the U.S. Census Bureau will unveil six public service announcements, the first-ever such videos focused on encouraging the LGBT community to fill out and mail back their forms. One of the six leaders featured in the videos is Jesse Garcia, president of Dallas’ gay LULAC Council (above). The Census Bureau has also posted several other videos on its Web site that were filmed at Creating Change in Dallas in early March, including one featuring Bret Camp, associate executive director of Resource Center Dallas (below). There’ll be press conference in New York later today to unveil the videos, which will be shown on Logo beginning today. You can watch a live stream of the press conference at 1 p.m. Dallas time by going here. For more info on the Census and the LGBT community, go here.