Alison Albelda/Daily Senior Staffer
The Evanston Health and Human Services Department is partnering with Howard Brown Health and the Evanston Public Library to provide free sexually transmitted infection screenings in the Evanston community.
Starting Jan. 14, individuals will be able to walk in to EPL’s main branch in downtown Evanston on the second Monday of every month between 3 and 7 pm without an appointment scheduled.
Evonda Thomas-Smith, the director of the Evanston Health and Human Services Department, said she helped to advocate for the services’ implementation. She added that the city also partners with Evanston Township High School and the GYT: Get Yourself Tested campaign every year to screen for STIs.
“Howard Brown wanted to offer free services to Evanston as Cook County has the highest rates of STDs and STIs in the state of Illinois,” Thomas-Smith said. “Our STD and STI rates are significantly increasing.”
Jill Skwerski, EPL’s engagement services manager, said the library is always looking for ways to provide community access to all forms of literacy, including health literacy. She said in communities across the country, people struggle to find affordable access to healthcare solutions, and the library can play a role in health literacy by providing free access that might otherwise not be a possibility for people.
“Many times people think of the library as a place to get access to books, maybe movies, story times,” Skwerski said. “The Evanston Public Library is committed to providing access to all forms of literacy, including health literacy, financial literacy, digital literacy. This partnership with Howard Brown is one of the ways we fulfill that mission towards providing access to health literacy.”
EPL will provide services like HIV prevention counseling and rapid HIV screening, as well as screenings for syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia. All screening is confidential, and participants can be connected to treatment and partner services if necessary. The option to be tested alone or with a partner will also be available.
The organization that will be providing the free STI screenings, Howard Brown Health, is a Chicago-based federally-qualified health center that works to eliminate healthcare disparities in the LGBTQ community. According to HIV.gov, an initiative by the Department of Health and Human Services, in 2016 gay and bisexual men accounted for 67 percent of all HIV diagnoses and 83 percent of HIV diagnoses among males.
According to Howard Brown Health’s website, providing free access to STI screening services will make obtaining these health care services easier for these communities.
Weinberg sophomore Ezra Okeson said having more free screenings is significant and may make young people more likely to get tested when it’s easy and accessible.
“If it’s not offered people aren’t going to go out of their way to get tested,” Okeson said. “I know the reasons that I have or that my friends have is because it’s so easy to go down to the clinic and just do it when it doesn’t cost money.”
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