By Erica Howard
I went to St. Petersburg, Florida for vacation. One day, while I was out, I passed by a store called "Out of the Closet" and I was immediately curious about the store. Out of the Closet is a chain of thrift stores that work to raise awareness and money for HIV/AIDS research. Ninety-six cents for every dollar is given right to AIDS Healthcare Foundation, which provides HIV testing and treatments to those in the US and aboard. The chain originated in Los Angeles. All items in the stores are donations from people. They take and sell clothes, jewelry, and even furniture.
It's been nearly 40 years since the HIV/AIDS epidemic started in the United States.
The first recording of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) was on June 5, 1981, when five healthy, homosexual males in the 3 different LA hospitals all contracted a rare form of pneumonia. In Sept. Of 1982, AIDS and its definition are released by the Center of Disease Control (CDC). Finally, in January of 1985, the CDC revised their definitions of AIDS and stated the HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) was the cause of AIDS. In 1986, the CDC started to educate the masses with PSAs and every household being given a pamphlet about AIDS. By 1992, AIDS was the #1 cause of death for men between 25-44. Today, it's estimated that over a million people in the US are living with HIV.
Now, in 2018, a diagnose of HIV is no longer a death sentence. Plenty of people live healthy lives with HIV, thanks to cocktails of medication. Celebrities such as basketball player Magic Johnson and Broadway actor Javier Muñoz, known for being Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton, are both living productive lives while being HIV positive. We don't really have the conversations about HIV anymore, which can be thanks to how far we have come in treating HIV and preventing the spread of the virus but doesn't mean we still can't talk about it.
Research for HIV is critical since there are about 38 million people worldwide living with HIV. If we can find a cure for HIV, then there could be the first HIV-free generation in decades! Many of us were born during the AIDS epidemic in the 1990's. Most of us are well educated on the virus and how to prevent it from spreading, but we need to keep talking about it. Discussing HIV now will hopefully lead to more resources for research, prevent, treatment and, eventually, a cure.
Out of the Closet not only a thrift store - all stores have a center to do FREE HIV testing, and a pharmacy for individuals to pick up their medication, or they can have them delivered for free to their homes. They are attacking HIV/AIDS from all sides: diagnosing, treating, and researching. The store has 20 locations across the US. For more information and to find a store, go to their website: outofthecloset.org