Families affected by HIV and AIDS live their Super Bowl Experience
Last weekend a group of families from the Laurel Foundation came to the Los Angeles Convention Center to learn more about football in the National Football League (NFL).
The Super Bowl Experience continues this weekend so kids and adults alike can experience games and entertainment, as well as view memorabilia from the pros.
The families of the foundation are very special because, despite the problems they face, for a moment everyone was able to forget a little that a member of their family has HIV or AIDS.
HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks cells that help the body fight infection, making a person more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. The virus is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, such as blood, or through unprotected sex.
AIDS is the final stage of HIV that occurs when the body’s immune system is severely damaged by the virus.
The lucky families received free tickets thanks to donations from supporters who support the foundation’s cause.
Among the participants was Anny Lima, 23, who accompanied the families as a counselor.
Lima knows very closely the feelings of the families since she came to the foundation when she was a girl. She became so passionate about the subject that at the age of 15 she began to be trained as a counselor, a position she now holds to help other young people.
Lima said that when she was little, her parents adopted her two godchildren after their parents died of AIDS.
The oldest girl was infected with HIV and her therapist referred the entire family to the Laurel Foundation, which is in charge of empowering children, youth and families affected by HIV/AIDS, as well as transgender and gender diverse youth. through educational and support programs.
“And we all went through the program, my older sister, my older brother, my two younger brothers and me,” Lima said.
The young woman assures that initially it was very difficult for the family since her parents did not want to talk about it.
“In a lot of homes they don’t really talk about illnesses and they don’t really educate you about things like that,” Lima said.
So the best help in a safe and reliable way was to participate in the programs of the Laurel Foundation, which serves children from 6 to 17 years old. These include a camp, access to counselors, and activities where none of the participants are judged.
She added that prior to the Laurel Foundation camp the most she knew about HIV and AIDS was that it was being transmitted among the LGBTQ community and they were spreading it.
“Obviously that was false, but I had no other education until I got to camp. Medical personnel arrive there and explain everything to you,” Lima said.
After receiving the appropriate advice, Lima decided to continue helping other children and young people, which is why she continues but from another front.
Another of the participants who came to the NFL Experience was José Hernández, who brought his family so that the children could have fun in something that he would not have been able to pay for out of pocket.
Hernández said that in 1993 he was infected with HIV, the same year his daughter was born, who was also diagnosed at six months.
Shortly after he found out about a foundation that helps families and he did not hesitate to take his daughter when the required age allowed it.
Now Hernández has two sons, 10 and 11 years old, who are not infected but have participated in the program for two years.
“I like it because they take them to events and participate in programs with UCLA,” Hernandez said.
He asserted that they had never attended an event as original as the Super Bowl Experience.
“We had a good time since everything was different, there was to kick the ball, simulated blocks and more things,” Hernández said.
He appreciated that there are donors willing to help them even though they don’t know them.
“Thank you because you don’t know who donated the tickets, but they do know who they are helping,” Hernández explained.
Margot Anderson, founder and CEO of the Laurel Foundation, said that all year long they reach out to families through partners, social media and places they reach in person.
He added that currently none of the children they are caring for has HIV. Usually they get there because some member of their family has it.
“We offer them age-appropriate education because they almost always come in with the wrong information about the virus because they found it online,” Anderson said. “Here we talk about mental health, issues, safe spaces, and we think it’s great because everyone is willing to talk to social workers.”
Currently half of the foundation’s participants are of Latino origin.
Anderson added that help is needed to continue providing safe spaces for children. People can do this by donating or volunteering their work.
To learn more about the foundation visit: https://laurel-foundation.org/