MGLCC part of free condom program
By Carrie Sanders | MicroMemphis reporter
Free condoms for everyone! At least that is the goal set forth by a new initiative that launched on Feb. 14 called Free Condoms Memphis.
A press conference announcing the new program was held at the Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center located at 892 South Cooper St. in Cooper Young.
Free Condoms Memphis has been a dream come true for Elokin CaPece, director of education at Memphis Planned Parenthood. CaPece has been involved with HIV testing since 2007 and educates HIV testers.
CaPece says that this new program is something that she and a lot of other longstanding HIV health providers have wanted to see happen for a long time. “We really wanted to do something at the scope that it needs to be done, not just going to health fairs and handing out condoms, not just going out and teaching HIV awareness one-on-one to a small group of people, but, something that is a citywide effort. That is what Memphis really deserves at this point.”
Dorcus Young, Administrator of the Memphis Ryan White Program says the timing for the launch couldn’t have been more profound, “I think it’s poetic that we are doing it here on Valentine’s Day as we think about loving ourselves and loving others as we think about protecting them from STDs and HIV.”
The condoms are being distributed at no cost with no questions asked at 30 different locations around the Memphis area.
The condoms are donated to the program through distributors and social outreach programs.
The diversity of locations ranges from places like Memphis and Shelby County Health Department, a laundromat, a barber shop and churches.
The diversity of availability in where people may obtain condoms through Free Condoms Memphis is also something that is of particular importance to Young. “It’s not just the usual suspects of non-profits that are doing this type of work. You have business leaders, you have church leaders, you have different people that have invested energy and they are committed to seeing people healthier here,” Young said.
Pastor Paul Eknes-Tucker of Holy Trinity Church at 685 S.Highland says he got involved because he is not naïve and wants people to make informed, healthier choices. “People are going to have sex, no matter what a pastor says and the idea is that we give people good information so they can make good choices about the kind of sex they have so they can be free from unwanted pregnancies and free from diseases. I always tell people, Jesus said, ‘I have come to give you truth so the truth may set you free.’ Information is freedom. Holy Trinity is very proud to be one of the places that people can come and get this information.”
Businesses have gotten involved with the program as a way to be a place where people don’t feel pressure about the issues and obtaining condoms.
Mario Taylor, who owns First Impressions Remix Barber and Beauty Shop located at 1470 Elvis Presley Blvd., says he can remember walking into the pharmacy when he was 19 and having a sweat break out on his forehead because he was nervous about what the clerk was thinking. To Taylor, having the condoms at his business takes the stress out of the situation, “People come in every week to 3 weeks, so you can get a haircut and pick up some condoms.”
Tamika Daniel, Program Manager at South Memphis Alliance, Inc. agrees with Taylor’s concept of distributing condoms in a relaxed environment and says they will give away condoms at the laudromat at their community resource center because, “Who doesn’t wash their clothes? The people we are trying to touch will get the impact.”
People are also allowed to take as many condoms as they think they might need through this initiative.
Daniel says that they have a “nice supply of condoms. We’re going to have a bowl. What you grab, is what you take.”
Martavius Hampton, the Volunteer Coordinator and HIV Program Manager at Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, says the program is vital because it concerns everyone, “It’s not just sexual minority men-of-color affected, African-American women are very affected, heterosexual couples are affected, so it does affect us all so we do have to be sure we don’t leave anyone out.”
Free Condoms Memphis now has advertisements on buses throughout the city to let people know about the program and all locations are equipped with supplies.
You can learn more about the initiative and a location near you at FreeCondomsMemphis.org.