A guide to sexual health resources in Evanston, Chicago and beyond


Daily file illustration by Meher Yeda

The Daily has compiled resources about sexual health organizations in the area.

Lily Carey, Reporter

Content Warning: This story includes mentions of sexual violence.

Navigating sexual health can be a confusing and isolating process, with steep barriers that range from severe stigma to blatant misinformation.

The Daily covered Evanston Public Library and Howard Brown Health’s free walk-in STI and HIV screening series this fall, but the city and local areas have other resources to offer. So, The Daily has created this guide to connect residents with sexual health resources and organizations in the Evanston and Chicago areas. 

Read on to learn how these sexual health organizations can help — and how they’re pushing to eliminate the stigmas surrounding sexual health care and education.

Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault

“We’re not going to ever be able to address ending sexual violence … unless we have spaces in hospitals that are trauma-informed and full of people that represent the communities they serve.” — Liv Harmening, Educator and Advocate

The Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault is a community health organization that focuses on preventing sexual violence through education and community activism while uplifting survivors through advocacy and counseling. Its services support communities in Cook and McHenry counties across the North Shore.

The organization’s legal and medical advocates are available 24/7 to survivors of sexual violence who need assistance in hospital emergency rooms or in navigating the criminal justice system and managing their cases. 

Harmening said providing these advocates for survivors is especially important to help counter harmful, sometimes insensitive attitudes in hospitals.

The center also focuses heavily on reaching out to communities through local programming, which includes educational programs both in and out of schools and events at community centers around the area. Harmening said these local outreach efforts are a crucial step to involving people in advocacy.

“We need to do a better job of giving people that immediate action step,” she said. “A call to action is an even better way to boost awareness.”

Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center

“We have definitely adapted our service delivery to be very trauma focused, and we work very collaboratively with other community partners to integrate our care.” — Christine Berry, Director of Services

The Zacharias Sexual Abuse Center works against sexual violence and promotes trauma-informed care through prevention and intervention tactics. On the prevention side, the center provides educational programs for children in schools, as well as professional training. With intervention, it also engages in medical advocacy in hospitals, runs a 24/7 support line (847-872-7799) and provides group and individual counseling services. One Zacharias Center site that offers counseling services is based in Skokie.

The Zacharias Center places a major emphasis on trauma-informed care, both through volunteer training and actual practices. Berry said this sensitivity and consciousness is especially crucial in serving survivors of sexual violence and educating the community on prevention.

“Over 70% of the population has experienced trauma in their lifetime,” Berry said. “We really need to incorporate trauma-informed care into every possible profession, so that we can become a much more trauma-informed society.”

For those looking to get involved, the Zacharias Center will offer 40-hour volunteer training sessions this January at its Lake County location, where participants can learn how to serve as medical advocates, support line operators, or educators.

Howard Brown Health

“We know that STIs and HIV come with a lot of stigma, and we believe that that stigma is more dangerous than HIV itself.” — Erik Roldan, Director of Marketing and Communications 

Howard Brown is one of the largest LGBTQ+ organizations in Chicago, and provides a wide variety of healthcare services to this community at locations across the area. 

Howard Brown provides HIV/AIDS services such as testing and guidance on accessing care. It also has a sexual health clinic, provides counseling, offers primary healthcare for LGBTQ+ patients and runs a youth education program.

Along with its extensive citywide health network, Roldan said that Howard Brown focuses on community outreach and confidentiality in order to create connections with patients and combat stigma.

“We are always engaged in outreach efforts … in the communities that we serve,” said Roldan. “It’s important for us to be accessible in all kinds of ways.”

For the Evanston area, Howard Brown’s closest clinic is its 6500 North Clark St. office in Uptown. It also has 10 other locations across Chicago.

Resilience Chicago

“Our services are for anyone who has ever experienced any kind of sexual violence … whether it was last week, or 25 years ago, we’ll see you regardless of circumstances.” Erica Hungerford, Resilience Chicago Office Manger

Headquartered on North Michigan Avenue in downtown Chicago with a North Side office closer to Evanston, Resilience offers free counseling services, covering up to 20 therapy sessions for survivors, family and friends. 

The organization works to advocate for survivors at every step of their journey. Its medical advocates serve on-call to help survivors in the hospital directly following an assault, while legal advocates aid survivors navigating the criminal justice system and ensuring they receive compensation for medical bills. 

Resilience also offers volunteer opportunities. Anyone can take a 60-hour training course to become a medical advocate with Resilience, and can serve as a medical advocate in the emergency room.

Center on Halsted

“The pandemic of COVID does not mean that we don’t have a pandemic of HIV.” — Erica Gafford, Director of HIV and STD Testing and Prevention Services

The Center on Halsted is a space for LGBTQ+ communities in Chicago that provides a wide range of programming, including free sexual health services.

The center offers connection to healthcare resources for those living with HIV and advising on accessing pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, a medication that can reduce risk for HIV. It also offers limited availability HIV testing, with calling ahead strongly encouraged. 

The Center operates the Illinois state HIV/AIDS and STD hotline (800-243-2437) for urgent situations, as well as an HIV Resource Hub that provides more comprehensive information.

Since the pandemic’s onset, Gafford has noticed many health organizations overwhelmingly shift their focus to combatting COVID-19, leaving those seeking crucial care for HIV without enough resources. 

However, Gafford emphasized Center on Halsted is working with patients to phase back in a greater focus on sexual healthcare and break down barriers to seeking out such care.

“Because of stigma, people aren’t even acquiring the information that they need,” she said. “It’s still the biggest threat that we have.”


“Our goal was to take the videos to where young people are, which is online, and make them as accessible as possible.”Angela Maske, Strategic Projects Coordinator with Advocates for Youth

Launched in 2016 by Advocates for Youth, AMAZE is a project to “take the awkward out of sex ed” by providing young people with lighthearted, age-appropriate videos about youth sexual health. AMAZE has released more than 120 animated videos on YouTube that cover a range of topics, from sexuality and safe sex to social media and LGBTQ+ issues. 

Its channel now has more than 200,000 subscribers and 54 million views. 

AMAZE has become especially important as a virtual resource for parents and educators looking to fill in the gaps in youth sex education, Maske said.

“The gravity of a resource like AMAZE became even more important (during the pandemic),” she said. “It allowed us to recognize the breadth of what sex education includes …  It’s about creating information that helps young people live their best lives holistically.” 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @lilylcarey

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