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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
CALIFORNIA: An HIV/AIDS Support Group Allows Kids to Learn and Express Themselves Without Being Judged or Ridiculed
Courtney Perkes
February 15, 2012
Orange County Register (01.25.12) - Wednesday, February 15,

The Irvine-based AIDS Services Foundation (ASF) hosts a weekly support group for 20 or so children and teens living with HIV/AIDS.

Recently a six-week puppet-making workshop was held to give the kids a unique way to express their complex emotions. "Often people will feel the puppet can express and say things that they can't," said Krista Ratnaweera, manager of community partnerships for the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, which put on the workshop. "The puppet can help voice things that they're struggling to talk about." Twelve-year-old Jesus recalled hearing one boy at school tell another that he contracted AIDS from having sex with a dog. "I kind of laugh. On the inside, it's hurting a lot," Jesus said.

Jesus was born with the virus, passed from his unknowingly infected mother during pregnancy. He believed the pills he swallowed every morning and night were vitamins until his mother told him the truth a year ago. "She told me I had a sickness called HIV," he remembered.

Liz, 18, grew up hearing different reasons as to why her mother passed away. At age 14 she learned she was born with HIV, and her mother had died of AIDS. The support group has helped her realize she can live a normal life. "My doctor said I'm very healthy," said Liz. "I want to get married and have children and see them grow up and have grandchildren." What attendees want more than anything, said Laurie Barber, ASF's family programs coordinator and leader of the group, "is to have [HIV/AIDS] not define who they are."

www.aegis.org