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Central Illinois Friends celebrating 30 years serving the community, helping people with HIV

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PEORIA (WEEK) -- For three decades those living with HIV have had a friend here in Central Illinois.

Central Illinois Friends has been extending a helping hand to people with HIV as well as providing free HIV and STI screening for 30 years.

"Everything is confidential, it stays with us you don't have to worry about a thing and we'll take care of you. We don't treat but we'll guide you in the right direction whether they have insurance or no insurance we're here," Central Illinois Friends Office Manager Kacinda Helfers said.

"We help those that living with HIV, whether that's rent, utilities things like that."

They even go into the local high schools to provide a full panel of STI testing to the students.

"[We test for] For gonorrhea, chlamydia, trich, hep a, b, c, rapid HIV, syphilis and herpes 1 and 2," Helfers said.

Helfers said the office always has prophylactics on hand to distribute free of charge to those in need of them.

"We have a lot of them and we encourage people to come, just come get them it's really that easy there is no judgment this is a free judgment zone, we're all about sexual health," she explained.

When it comes to sexual health she said the non-profit also works on spreading the correct information.

"We have educators that go into the grade schools that go to the grade schools and teach the kids about sexual health that way they know from the start and kind of build their knowledge as they get older and reduce the stigma," she said.

Helfers said that education, like what Central Illinois Friends provides to their clients and to local schools, could be why some studies show an increase in sexually transmitted infections.

"When we're talking about it more people are getting familiar and like 'hey it's okay to get to tested, this is good, they're saying this a good thing to go in.' It's not embarrassing, no, If you think that you are having symptoms or something," she said.

"Yeah, more people are coming in so yeah the rates are going higher because more people are aware and they want to do something about it."

The non-profit is celebrating its birthday at their annual Mardi Gras Fundraiser at 7:00 p.m. at the Warehouse on State on Friday.

For more information on their free services, you can visit their website at www.friendsofcentralillinois.org.

Stephanie Rodriguez

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