NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — Members of the LGBT+ community living in Bloomington-Normal now have more convenient access to healthcare services.
Peoria-based non-profit, Central Illinois Friends opened its second location Friday morning within Normal’s Community Healthcare Clinic.
Since 1990, Central Illinois Friends has helped those living with HIV/AIDS and offers free STI testing and sexual health counseling.
Thanks to a partnership with CHCC, anyone who is in the LGBT community or is sexually active in McLean County can receive free, no questions asked HIV/AIDS testing, STI testing (Hepatitis, Syphilis, Herpes, Gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and Trichomoniasis), access to PreP pills; a daily pill that prevents HIV exposure, Human Papillomavirus vaccinations, transgender health navigation services, and sexual health counseling.
Central Illinois Friends executive director Deric Kimler said they’re bringing services to the people who need them most.
“People (from Bloomington-Normal) started traveling to Peoria to seek our services. So we knew the need was here, we always providing services here, so now we have a location-specific to be able to serve that entire population,” Kimler said.
Kimler said opening this new location helps eliminate barriers people in the LGBT+ community face at other healthcare institutions. He said those include stigma, monetary issues, and judgment.
Kimler said the statewide goal in Illinois is to have zero new positive HIV cases by the year 2030.
“If everyone living with HIV had access to care and had all their resources and hierarchy of needs met, and can achieve an undetectable status then we can get to zero new HIV diagnoses,” Kimler said.
Kimler said services provided by Central Illinois Friends are always zero cost to the patient and they won’t bill your insurance, if you have it, without your consent.
“Our goals are to lower our communal viral load and to get lower STIs for our entire community, not just those who can afford it. So we have to create avenues in which everybody can access care,” Kimler said.
Leaders with both Central Illinois Friends and the Community Healthcare Center said the idea came about a month ago, with hopes of opening the Bloomington-Normal location in June for Pride Month.
Executive Director of the CHCC Mike Romagnoli said it’s the perfect partnership.
“For us, we were founded in 1993 and the mission has always been access, so for us creating access to underserved communities is what we’ve always done and this is one more group we can help out now,” Romagnoli said.
Romagnoli said the CHCC will be an easy referral for patients of Central Illinois Friends who may need other health-related help, not pertaining to sexuality and vice versa.
“CI Friends sees a lot of people who are uninsured as well so they will now have a built-in referral source. Patients they see that are uninsured, we can fold them into our services and they’ve already been here, so it’ll be a much warmer handoff,” Romagnoli said.
Community Healthcare Clinic offers comprehensive medical care, dental care, and drug prescriptions free of charge to patients without medical insurance and live below the poverty line.
The CI Friends clinic located at 900 Franklin Ave. in Normal will be open every other Friday with the long-term goal of being open every Friday and Saturday.
The Community Healthcare Clinic is open every week, Monday through Thursday, from 8:30 a.m. to 5p.m.