State of Tennessee cuts access to grants for HIV testing, prevention

Will Batts

Will Batts

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center was forced to suspend its HIV testing program Wednesday after a representative from Planned Parenthood informed the center that it does not have the funds necessary to provide the HIV testing for the foreseeable future.

Will Batts

Planned Parenthood said the state of Tennessee has denied it access to grants for HIV prevention.

For more than three years, MGLCC has collaborated with Planned Parenthood to provide the only regularly-scheduled, after-hours HIV testing in the mid-South — the cut in funding places MGLCC’s model HIV testing program in jeopardy.

“Our strong collaboration with Planned Parenthood to provide HIV testing has improved the lives of hundreds of people every year,” Will Batts, Executive Director of MGLCC, told LGBTQ Nation on Wednesday.

“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,” he said.

Batts noted that despite the MGLCC’s core mission to focus on the needs of the 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, said Batts. “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.

“More than 500 individuals have been tested by the HIV testing program offered by MGLCC since the program’s inception in 2008.”

Batts also told LGBTQ Nation that the MGLCC has been working diligently to obtain direct funding to expand their testing capacity and to create a stronger HIV education and outreach program for the LGBT community.

He added that the center will continue to explore other avenues of support to enable it to resume the HIV testing.

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