(Photo above: A volunteer at the center, Victoria Coss, is in the process of creating a mural in the Health Office)
I recently met with Jessie Claudio, Senior Manager of Health Services at OUTMemphis and took a tour of the newly remodeled community center on Cooper Street. Apart from getting a comprehensive overview of their sexual health services—which we will detail below—what stood out the most to me was their dedication to supporting and connecting with folks that often fall through the cracks. Here’s eight pieces of important information you should know about how OUTMemphis is working to make sexual health more accessible for everyone in the community:
- HIV testing takes place after normal business hours, Monday through Wednesday 6 to 9pm, no appointment is necessary and no ID required.
- There’s continued support after diagnosis or consultation, until you are connected with a medical provider. That goes for HIV testing, PEP & PrEP access, and gender-affirming hormone therapy.
- Intake forms use community-based language and services are in both English and Spanish.
- The waiting room and Health Office at the center have been arranged and decorated to be warm and inviting—the opposite of cold (and often judgmental) medical spaces.
- There are free at-home testing kits for folks that need it.
- They understand that there is a lot of mistrust of the healthcare system so they have been working to build rapport in the community, showing up to clubs and other gay spaces to reach people who often get left out of the equation.
- They recognize that HIV research and grants are largely centered around gay and bi men of color, as well as transwomen and are looking to help fill in the gaps with neglected populations, such as Black and Latina cis gender women (both straight and queer) who are getting diagnosed with HIV at disproportionately high rates.
- OUTMemphis’ new Sexual Health Specialist, Jenieya Peterson has been working to organize events that are welcoming to LGBTQ+ POC. She recently organized a very successful La Spa Bruncheon event this past March in which people from the community were able to get together, share, engage in PrEP discussion, and get tested in a comfortable, inclusive, fun atmosphere.