The Memphis Gay & Lesbian Community Center (MGLCC) announced today that it will no longer offer free weekly HIV tests after Planned Parenthood informed the center that it could no longer fund the tests.
Planned Parenthood has funded the free service, which was the only regularly-scheduled, after-hours HIV testing offered in the Mid-South, for three years. But the State of Tennessee's decision to pull Planned Parenthood's grants for HIV prevention has left the organization without the funds to support testing at MGLCC.
From MGLCC's news release on ending the HIV testing program:
"Despite MGLCC’s core mission to focus on the needs of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, the HIV testing program offered at MGLCC has always been open to anyone needing a test. MGLCC does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. MGLCC believes that helping clients find out their HIV status and find access to appropriate HIV care is an essential service not only for the individual, but for the health and well-being of our entire city."
Since MGLCC's HIV testing program began, more than 500 people have taken advantage of the free service.
“Our strong collaboration with Planned Parenthood to provide HIV testing has improved the lives of hundreds of people every year," said Will Batts, MGLCC's executive director. "Losing this vital program will put the health and well-being of many Memphians at risk. MGLCC considers the setback to our HIV testing program a great tragedy, but we hope the setback will be only a temporary one.”
MGLCC is working to obtain new funding for the tests. Planned Parenthood Greater Memphis Region and Planned Parenthood of Middle and East Tennessee are suing the state for denying the $150,000 in grant money.