Sun. May 19th, 2024

HIV rates in Shelby County are among the worst in the country, but community leaders are working to change that

 Steffen Reals

Community-based organizations are partnering to secure funding for HIV care after the state chose to refuse millions in federal funding

 

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Earlier this year, the state of Tennessee announced it would no longer be accepting CDC funds to help with HIV testing and treatment.  Shelby County Mayor Lee Harris called this move disastrous for the community. Several community leaders worry this could potentially harm the county, which is the third highest in the country for new infection rates.

“The fact that this funding is being cut, is going to be devastating to the community,” said Dr. Michelle Taylor, Shelby County Health Department Director.

Those same leaders came together after the state refused $9 million in federal funding. Now the race is on to find a solution.

“Our organization received a letter did receive a letter from the state terminating our relationship May 31st, that letter came to us yesterday,” said Molly Quinn, OutMemphis Executive Director. Quinn said the organization will be losing around $140,000 they were counting on to pay for HIV testers, treatment and care.

Friends for Life is another group being affected by the state’s decision.

President and CEO Diane Duke said they could potentially lose $1.5 million in funding. So together with other community based organizations, the Shelby County Health Department, and Shelby County mayor Lee Harris, they have formed the HIV Equity Coalition.

“We’ve come together to try and find ways to work around this, and if we have to work around the state, then that’s what we’ll do,” said Duke.

In order to do this, the HIVE Coalition is asking the CDC to donate to different organization, who would then pass it along to place like Friends for Life.

“We encouraged the CDC to go through the United Way of Nashville, to be able to just be able to connect with all the CBO’s that they were working with,” said Duke, “Dr. Taylor with the county has said they would be willing to facilitate those funds.”

If you want to get tested you can go to places like OutMemphis, who have HIV testing clinics three times a week.  You can get a rapid test, that will either prick your finger or swab your mouth, and you could get results within half an hour.

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