EPL holds STI screenings with Howard Brown, Health and Human Services Department


Daily file photo by Katie Pach

Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington Ave. The second Monday of each month, Howard Brown Health provides free HIV and STI screenings.

Jacob Fulton, Assistant City Editor

Last year, Evanston Public Library began its partnership with the city’s Health and Human Services Department and Howard Brown Health to educate the community on safe sex through free STI and HIV screenings.

The screenings are hosted at the main branch of EPL on the second Monday of each month, and from 3 to 7 p.m. Howard Brown provides rapid HIV screening through a finger prick, as well as gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia testing, according to the city’s website. Attendees can also meet confidentially with a counselor to discuss sexual health treatment and HIV prevention.

While this is not a new program, employees of EPL and Howard Brown said it has been essential to continue their work. Antonio Elizondo, the manager of sexual and reproductive health outreach services at Howard Brown, said they initially held screenings at the Evanston Department of Health, at 2100 Ridge Ave, before moving to EPL.

“There’s a stigma that can be associated with health departments, so we decided that it might be best to move into a library, which has actually proven to be a smart move,” Elizondo said. “Libraries aren’t charged with any stigmas or attachment to that type of idea. By going into libraries, were able to eliminate a barrier.”

Jill Skwerski, EPL’s engagement services manager, said she has seen noticeable growth in attendance since the relocation of the program to the library, to the point where she began reserving a second room for screenings.

She said at the most recent screening, approximately 20 community members stopped in, and the majority of those who participated were in their early 20s.

When the city initially reached out to EPL to see if it could host the screenings, Skwerski said it seemed natural, given the library’s intended role in educating the community.

“We are constantly exploring what it means to provide equitable access to resources,” Skwerski said. “We want to provide the community with access not only to printed word literacy, but to digital literacy, financial literacy and health literacy.”

Skwerski said STI screenings are one way EPL can become a trusted source for personal health education, and she hopes community members will utilize the professional resources the library provides.

Elizondo said it is essential the screenings are free to make them more accessible to all Evanston residents. The lack of a financial barrier has affected attendance levels at each event, they said

They added that the services and education Howard Brown provides are necessary, because those who attend the screenings aren’t always aware that STIs can be asymptomatic, or aren’t conscious about prevention practices.

“By the library allowing us to provide this service for free to the community at large in a public setting, we’re able to address some misunderstandings during counseling sessions or provide clarity on things that people have misunderstood,” Elizondo said. “That’s a benefit, as well as people just updating their status and knowing if they need treatment.”

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Twitter: @jacobnfulton1