Representatives from city, county and state government attended the opening ceremony for the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s new state-of-the-art medical center Monday morning.
Although the Los Angeles-based AHF has operated a pharmacy and testing facility in St. Pete since May 2017, the health care center will offer HIV/AIDS care and services to patients regardless of their insurance status or ability to pay immediately.
It’s what AHF’s Regional Director for Central Florida Shaundia White calls “wraparound services.”
“If someone has tested positive, they can come and see the provider right away, rather than wait 48 hours,” she said. “And then they can get their medication from the pharmacy. All in one place.
“We know that sometimes transportation is a huge issue for clients. Going to different locations can be a little bit cumbersome. ”
The new clinic is in the same building at the AHF’s fundraising Out of the Closet thrift store in the Skyway Marina District, which also houses the testing facility and pharmacy. The organization operates 23 such combinations around the country.
The St. Pete location is the first “wraparound services” facility in Florida.
“St. Pete, a relatively small city, is Number 15 in the nation in new HIV infections,” said AHF president Michael Weinstein. “One of the few places in this country where the numbers continue to go up is in Florida. We are standing in the epicenter of HIV in North America.
“The reality is that what we’re doing in Florida now isn’t enough. And unless we come up with some new strategies and devote some new resources, we’re going to continue to see the growth of HIV in the State of Florida, and in St. Pete.”
Weinstein and other AHF representatives praised Mayor Rick Kriseman, whose support of the area’s LGBT community has been strong and consistent.
Kriseman, who raised the Rainbow Flag over City Hall Thursday to celebrate Pride Weekend, had been scheduled to speak at Monday’s ribbon-cutting.
“He’s under the weather with a cold,” said spokesman Jim Nixon, who pledged continued support and the mayor’s gratitude for AHF’s groundbreaking work in the city. “I think he danced a little too much this weekend.”
Lt. Markus Hughes, the St. Petersburg Police Department’s LGBT liaison, also praised the organization. Out of the Closet, he announced, was the first local business to be designated a “Safe Place,” designed to reduce hate crimes and harassment involving any person targeted for race, sexual orientation or religious affiliation.
Hughes, who stressed that safety and prevention “go hand in hand,” said more than 350 additional businesses have signed on to the program. “It’s also great to announce that although we’ve had this program for a year, there’ve been no instance where someone’s had to use it.”
The clinic and thrift store are located at 3404 26th St. S. (at US 19 and 26th Street). More info here.