EPL, Howard Brown Health host STI and HIV screening events


Daily file photo by Madison Smith

Evanston Public Library will host free walk-in STI screenings this Tuesday at its main location on Orrington Avenue in downtown Evanston.

Lily Carey, Reporter

Evanston Public Library and Howard Brown Health are hosting a series of walk-in HIV and STI screenings throughout the fall — including one on Tuesday.

Howard Brown Health, which aims to provide accessible healthcare to LGBTQ+ patients across the Chicago area, has already held one screening event at the library this fall. Two more are set for Nov. 23 and Dec. 28 in addition to this week’s event. All three screenings will take place between 3 and 7 p.m. and require no upfront payment or preregistration.

Heather Norborg, EPL’s adult learning and literacy manager, said financial accessibility was a primary goal in planning the event.

“Cost should not be a barrier,” Norborg said. “Being able to help make these types of health and wellness screenings more accessible fits right in with our mission.”

EPL began hosting STI screenings in collaboration with Howard Brown Health several years ago, but the screenings paused when the pandemic shut down EPL. 

While Howard Brown has several clinics throughout the Chicago area to provide STI testing and other health services, the organization also focuses on reaching out to communities that need localized care. 

Erik Roldan, Howard Brown’s director of marketing and communications, emphasized the importance of providing resources in areas such as Evanston, where many residents are college students who may have limited access to healthcare.

“It’s really important for us to meet our communities,” Roldan said. “For places like Evanston and Northwestern, we want to make sure that we’re visible to new residents.”

Howard Brown also prioritizes patient confidentiality, Roldan noted. Patients who attend the library screening events can expect to have a one-on-one, private conversation with a Howard Brown expert.

This also helps limit group interactions, which Norborg said is especially crucial during COVID-19. These screenings are some of the first in-person programs to return to EPL since the start of the pandemic, and Norborg noted the importance of following public health guidelines under these circumstances. 

After 18 months of pandemic shutdowns, these community initiatives are more important than ever, Norborg said. As Evanston reopens, public health efforts now have more freedom to focus on sexual health issues, from increasing accessibility to decreasing stigma.

“STI and HIV screenings, that type of sexual health … can be stigmatizing for folks,” Norborg said. “Anything we can do to help break down that barrier is important.”

Community advocates across Evanston have echoed this goal of destigmatization. The area has a wealth of sexual health and domestic violence resources, including the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault.

Liv Harmening, an educator and advocate for Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault, emphasized the impact screening events and community education can have on local attitudes toward sexual health.

“People take a sense of pride in … (living) in Evanston, because we offer really great things,” Harmening said. “It can be helpful to … feel like (you) live somewhere that wants to help people.”

Harmening said building this community network of sexual healthcare resources is essential. According to her, sexual health awareness in Evanston and beyond has been expanding recently, with the goal of providing such resources to residents who need them the most.

However, Harmening emphasized that the work of sexual health advocacy needs to go beyond simply spreading awareness — a mission that Tuesday’s screening event aims to fulfill.

“If you know that a problem exists that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll do something about it unless there’s a tangible action step,” Harmening said. “A call to action is an even better way to boost awareness.”

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