Illegal Immigrant Children Contracting HIV on Trip to US

Saturday, 28 Jun 2014 11:26 AM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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Some of the children coming across the Mexican border are testing positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, and a Texas health official says that some may have contracted the disease during their long journey north from Central America.

Most of the young people who have entered the country are not being tested for the virus, said Valley AIDS Council Director of Education and Prevention Oscar Lopez in McAllen, Texas, reports ABC affiliate KRGV.

Lopez said the council is only testing children likely to remain in the United States for the  long term.

Hundreds of children have been tested, and only 0.5 percent of the results were
positive.

"They do get screened and get a fantastic education with the different programs that are part of sex education, counseling and testing if they want or need it," Lopez told KRGV.

Lopez said most of the Central American families don't realize the dangers their children will be exposed to when they make the long journey north to the United States, and as a result, the children may be exploited, exposing them to contracting AIDS.

"(They) don't realize the exploitation that happens to children on a 2,000-mile trek. We've had reports of youth who have been exploited ... violated. It does happen," he said.

Children who do test positive will receive an education that "is actually much better than what is offered to youth at schools. Our state does not offer any education that is not abstinence only," said Lopez.

Meanwhile, some children are not being tested and are being sent back to their countries of origin, and many have acquired HIV on their way to the United States, said Lopez.

"Some of them, unfortunately, will be sent home in worse shape from when they got here," Lopez said.

HIV/AIDs is a serious issue along the border, reports The Valley Morning Star in Harlingen, Texas. An estimated one of every six people in the United States already do not know they are infected, and only one in four have the virus under control.

Border populations are especially affected, the paper reports, because of complications ranging from fear of deportation to homophobia, poverty, and limited access to quality health care.

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