March 25, 2013, Memphis, TN – For the second time in one week, the University of Tennessee (UT) has reneged on support for sexual health education. On Thursday afternoon, the Office of Special Events & Community Affairs at UT Health Science Center (UTHSC) in Memphis informed conference organizers at the Red Door Foundation and the MidSouth AIDS Fund, both Memphis-based HIV/AIDS prevention, outreach, and advocacy organizations, that the upcoming Tri-State African-American Community Summit for the "Saving Ourselves" symposium can no longer be held on campus because:
"The UT system which is governed by the President's Office on the Knoxville campus is undergoing revision of policy and procedure regarding usage of campus facilities."
The "Saving Ourselves" symposium is a 4-day (June 6-9) health education conference focusing on the African-American LGBTQ community, health service providers, and clinicians in the tri-state area (Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi). The Community Summit portion of the symposium, scheduled for June 8, will cover a wide range of topics including: new clinical research, retention in care, the National HIV Strategy and the Affordable Care Act, and community strategies to address the HIV/STD epidemic among the African-American community.
The event organizers were also asked to remove the UT logo from all promotional material since the University has withdrawn support. This announcement came one day after UT President Joe DiPietro and Dr. Jimmy Cheek, Chancellor of the Knoxville campus, revoked $11,145 of previously committed funding for "Sex Week" events hosted by the student-run organization Sexual Empowerment and Awareness at Tennessee.
Sexual and reproductive health and advocacy organizations from across the state have joined together to challenge this regrettable decision by UT officials. CHOICES: Memphis Center for Reproductive Health, Healthy & Free Tennessee, MidSouth AIDS Fund, Memphis Gay and Lesbian Community Center, Planned Parenthood, The Red Door Foundation, SisterReach, and Tennessee Equality Project would like President DiPietro to either restore UT support for the "Saving Ourselves" symposium or justify which policies and procedures have been violated by the event.