Evanston Public Library and Howard Brown Health organize STI and HIV tests

Daily archive photo by Madison Smith

The Evanston Public Library will host free screenings of IST this Tuesday at its main location on Orrington Avenue in downtown Evanston.

Evanston Public Library and Howard Brown Health run a series of walk-in HIV and STI tests throughout the fall, including a Tuesday.

Howard Brown Health, which aims to provide accessible healthcare to LGBTQ + patients in the Chicago area, has already hosted a screening event at the library this fall. Two more are scheduled for November 23 and December 28 in addition to this week’s event. The three screenings will take place between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. and do not require any upfront payment or pre-registration.

Heather Norborg, Head of Adult Learning and Literacy at EPL, said affordability was a main focus in planning the event.

“Cost shouldn’t be a barrier,” Norborg said. “Being able to help make these types of health and wellness screenings more accessible fits perfectly with our mission.”

The EPL began organizing STI screenings in collaboration with Howard Brown Health several years ago, but the screenings stopped when the pandemic ended EPL.

While Howard Brown has several clinics throughout the Chicago area to provide STI testing and other health services, the organization is also focused on communicating with communities in need of localized care.

Erik Roldan, Director of Marketing and Communications at Howard Brown, stressed the importance of providing resources in areas such as Evanston, where many residents are students who may have limited access to health care.

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

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

It also helps limit group interactions, which Norborg says is especially crucial during COVID-19. These screenings are among the first in-person programs to return to the EPL since the onset of the pandemic, and Norborg stressed the importance of following public health guidelines in 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 reducing stigma.

“Testing for STIs and HIV, that kind of sexual health… can be stigmatizing for people,” Norborg said. “Anything we can do to help break this barrier is important. “

Community advocates across Evanston echoed this goal of de-stigmatization. The region is teeming with sexual health and domestic violence resources, including the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault.

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

“People are proud of… (living) in Evanston because we have some really good stuff,” Harmening said. “It can be helpful to… feel like (you) live in a place that wants to help people. “

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

However, Harmening stressed that advocacy work for sexual health must go beyond mere awareness raising – a mission that Tuesday’s screening event aims to fulfill.

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

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