Testing a new approach to HIV awareness at Philly thrift store

     Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou is the co-founder and manager of Philly AIDS Thrift. (Kory Aversa)

    Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou is the co-founder and manager of Philly AIDS Thrift. (Kory Aversa)

    If getting tested for HIV were as routine as picking up a couple T-shirts, would more people know their status?

    The Philly AIDS Thrift store is about to find out.

    For the first time, screenings will be offered in the store – just in time for National HIV testing day on Saturday.

    The waiting room just off the second floor of the South Fifth Street store is colorful and lined with artwork. It feels more like a hip coffee shop than a clinic.

    Christina Kallas-Saritsoglou, co-founder and manager of Philly AIDS Thrift, said that’s exactly what they’re going for – normal – as routine as standing in line for coffee.

    “We thought that this would sort of normalize HIV testing – sort of break barriers, stigmas. There may be folks that are running on fear, afraid to go into a clinical setting,” she said.

    Experienced groups including Action AIDS, Philadelphia Fight, Bebashi, GALAEI and Mazzoni Center will do the actual testing.

    “Information is power. Knowing your status is important,” said Kallas-Saritsoglou. “We want you to be here in a warm, comfortable environment and know that you’re safe.”

    The testing center will be open from noon to 4 p.m. on the first and third Saturday and Sunday, and the second and fourth Friday and Saturday of each month.

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