January 26, 2007

A place of hope for HIV-positive children

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

HIV and AIDS are considered the plague of our times. Millions of people worldwide are infected with the deadly virus and disease. Although it causes harm to all people infected with it, the deadly results are more devastating when children are the ones affected.

In Tijuana, unfortunately, there are many minors that have been infected by HIV and AIDS, most of the time due to circumstances that is no fault of their own.

There are public policies being implemented in this city that will try to offer a better life for children that are suffering due to this disease.

Rosalba Márquez Sandoval, Executive Director of Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) de Tijuana, opened the first shelter in Mexico.

Last month, the Desarrollo Integral de la Familia (DIF) de Tijuana, a government social services agency, opened the first shelter in Mexico where disadvantaged HIV and AIDS positive minors will receive the attention and medical care they need to face their condition.

The Albergue DIF-Eunime will have room for 30 minors (male and female) in all areas of medical care and orientation about the disease, as well as psychological treatment and academic counseling.

A team of HIV-AIDS specialists from the University of California, San Diego, will present workshops and consultations at the shelter.

The center will be open 24 hours a day to shelter those minors that don’t have a family or that live by them selves. Those minors that have parents and a family will go to the center to receive medical and psychological care only.

The services are completely free of charge. Parents that which to receive care for their children will only have to submit the paperwork that states the condition. Then, center personnel will do a socioeconomic study of the family to determine if they qualify.

Currently, there are 14 minors at the shelter.

The shelter will be administrated by Eunime, a non-profit organization that for the past a year and a half has worked with HIV-positive children in Tijuana.

DIF will contribute the two-floor building, the salaries for the medical personnel, teachers, assistant personnel, and the basic equipment, which costs $532,000 pesos (about $53,000 dollars).

On the other hand, Eunime will provide consulting and workshops, and will also continue raising funds through local and international grants and contributions on both sides of the border.

This is the first DIF Center that focusses on children with HIV and AIDS in all of Mexico, said Rosalba Márquez Sandoval, Eunime executive director.

“AIDS is a disease that affects the whole family,” she said. She added that the condition creates psychological and social problems for the victims. Many times, she said, they’re targets of discrimination.

An average medical treatment for a HIV-positive person costs about $1,200 dollars in Tijuana.

In a year and a half since Eunime was founded, it has helped between 25 and 30 minors, ages birth to 19 years old.

The majority of the minors assisted became infected via a prenatal infection because their mothers were infected, too. In the next group are the children who live on the streets and became infected via sexual intercourse.

“We know it’s a complicated task, very difficult and also painful, because it’s about being with children in critical conditions,” said DIF President Maria Elvia Amaya de Hank. “But we don’t worry about spending time with them, what hurts us the most is to think that being able to do something for them, we stayed with our arms crossed.”

Mrs. Amaya encouraged other DIFs throughout Mexico to follow Tijuana’s DIF example and to open other HIV-AIDS shelters for minors.

“We believe that establishing a precedent is really important, because it’s not about who’s the first one, but about creating public policy that meets the needs of the population, regarding its problems and its positive aspects as well,” Mrs. Amaya said. “Hopefully, this way we all be able to say we’re doing something for the future of Mexican children”.

She said that the shelter will be paid for thanks to contributions and to the fundraising that the Patronato del DIF has done throughout the years.

“We feel satisfied to know that when we leave office we’ll leave this place in proper conditions, with the necessary equipment and adequate personnel to assist the children that for many reasons are in total abandonment, so there’s no one in their families to help them face this terrible disease,” she said.

Mrs. Amaya said that all of those interested in becoming volunteers at the new center are welcome. People from both sides of the border are encouraged to participate and make a difference in the lives of these children.

“This is a sensitive issue that needs a lot of help and attention”, she said.

If you would like to learn more about this program, to contribute your tax-deductible donation from the U.S., or to become a volunteer, please call DIF de Tijuana at (from the U.S.) 011-52-664-104-2537, in Tijuana 104-2537, from other cities in Mexico, 01-664-104-2537.

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