This image was taken from their press release
A Los Angeles-based AIDS organization plans to bring its unique mix of advocacy, health care and nonprofit business operations to a long-vacant lot on the southern border of the University District.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which bills itself as the largest global AIDS organization, said construction will begin soon on a building that is to house an Out of the Closet Thrift Store, AHF Pharmacy and HIV-testing site at the northeast corner of N. High Street and E. 5th Avenue.
The group also plans an AHF Healthcare Center in a medical office near Mount Carmel West hospital that could accommodate an initial caseload of 600 patients, said Adam Ouderkirk, regional director for the foundation.
“We take HIV patients regardless of ability to pay, whether you have a Cadillac (health-insurance) plan or no plan,” he said.
Both the thrift store and the pharmacy will be nonprofit ventures that generate money for the mission.
“It’s a model that’s worked in different parts of the country, and we think it will be successful in Columbus,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation.
Ouderkirk said the foundation just closed on the property at 1230 N. High St. He declined to discuss the price, but according to the Franklin County auditor’s website, the land sold for $1.6 million on Dec. 22.
Local advocates were mixed in their reactions. While additional community resources are welcome, they all said, one group said the AIDS Healthcare Foundation has done little to collaborate.
“We knew nothing about the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s intent until three weeks ago,” said Bill Hardy, president and CEO of the AIDS Resource Center Ohio. “To me, there was not adequate groundwork.”
Hardy said the resource center, which merged earlier this year with the Columbus AIDS Task Force, also has been discussing plans for a health-care center and pharmacy.
“Part of the consolidation was to expand services,” he said.
Hardy and the resource center are among many statewide AIDS advocates who disagreed with the AIDS Healthcare Foundation’s recent successful fight to stop Ohio from changing some of the rules governing the Ohio HIV Drug Assistance Program, which is the state’s version of the federal Ryan White Act.
State officials and local AIDS organizations say the changes would have kicked in only in the event of a waiting list — there isn’t one now — allowing for the use of a priority system so that the sickest people would be served first.
A Franklin County judge, however, agreed with three patients who filed a lawsuit saying the new rules could affect access to treatment. The foundation backed the patients.
A preliminary injunction blocking the new rules was issued this month, and the AIDS Healthcare Foundation hailed it as a victory. Weinstein said Ohio has no business planning for a “Sophie’s choice” in HIV treatment.
He also said there is plenty of room for new services in Columbus.
“Unfortunately, there is no shortage of patients to go around,” Weinstein said. “We are bringing our own resources to bear.”
A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that only 28 percent of Americans living with HIV have the virus under control with proper medication and treatment, he said.
The foundation’s presence likely will make a big difference in the city, said Karla Rothan, executive director of Stonewall Columbus. Stonewall’s community center and offices are at 1160 N. High St., near the site that the foundation will develop.
The thrift store and pharmacy are “an innovative way of doing nonprofit work,” Rothan said. “I’m glad they chose to be our neighbor. I think it’s going to enhance services.”