CHOICES Memphis Center for Reproductive Health volunteers promoted the organization’s free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) testing and new birthing facility at the Women’s History Feminist Fair booth on March 14 in the University Center.
The clinic volunteers, Miesha Devres and Mary Vandy, had pamphlets and information for students. Cookie Woolner, University of Memphis history professor and a member of the Women’s History Month Steering Committee, invited CHOICES to the Women’s History Month Feminist Fair.
“The Feminist Fair opens Women’s History Month at U of M by showcasing local and campus-wide services that support women in Memphis,” Woolner said. “Historically speaking, reproductive issues and access to reproductive health has been a focus of the feminist movement, so organizations specializing in women’s health were invited: CHOICES, SisterReach and Planned Parenthood.”
Mia Peake, volunteer coordinator for CHOICES, said with the new birth center, the organization would be the first non-profit in the United States to provide first trimester abortions, fertility assistance, HIV testing, sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing, wellness exams, hormone replacement therapy for transgender people and specifically birth facilitated by midwives, all under one roof.
“We’re really excited, and essentially we’re just giving women another option to give birth,” Peake said. “Our hope for this center is that it’ll decrease a lot of maternal health disparities in Memphis. We just want to basically support women during their journey through pregnancy, labor and postpartum.”
The facility will allow women to create their own environment for their birth. The facility will also have mental health services for anyone with postpartum or intimate violence issues.
Peake said the facility would be the “Walmart” of all reproductive health, with all services provided by one organization. There is a for-profit organization in Buffalo, New York, that is doing the same thing, but CHOICES will be the first nonprofit in the nation to do so.
Peake said Planned Parenthood and CHOICES provide some of the same services, but Planned Parenthood is not as extensive as CHOICES.
“Planned Parenthood is a franchise,” Peake said. “We are an independent organization, meaning we are locally owned.”
The clinic is also conducting free HIV testing for the month of March during walk-in hours. After the test, patients are informed of their results.
If they are negative, the clinic explains HIV climate in Tennessee and the best ways to prevent it. If they are positive, patients are given the care immediately with information on treatment options and organizational support.
“We know that our services are needed, especially with young individuals or old,” Peake said. “We just want to make sure that the information they need and the medical services they need are accessible.”
According to AIDSVu, a map that displays HIV statistics in different areas, there were 6,086 Memphians diagnosed with HIV in 2015. Men made up 69 percent of people living with diagnosed HIV in 2015, and 31 percent were women. Black people made up 84 percent of people living with diagnosed HIV in 2015, 3 percent were Hispanic and 11 percent were white.
Melissa Bamford, a U of M sociology professor, said Women’s History Month celebrates women by helping them support other women and reflect on inspirational women.
“Women’s History Month is a time to learn about and reflect on the contributions women make to our society,” Bamford said. “I think all of these campus events are good opportunities to showcase how women can support other women. It is important to reflect on and celebrate the contributions of women to our society because they often go unnoticed.”
Volunteer workers Mary Vandy and Miesha Devres are in the University Center at The University of Memphis promoting Choices, Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. The ladies are there to sign up volunteers for Choices and to inform students about free HIV testing through the month of March.