It’s been 25 years since HIV/AIDS was diagnosed. An entire generation has grown up with knowledge of the disease. In the 1980s numerous mothers passed the virus to babies and those children are now teens learning to cope with HIV. Houston Public Radio’s Laurie Johnson has more on the challenges facing the first HIV generation.
Katrina is a 17-year-old from San Antonio who asked to be identified by her first name. She was born HIV positive and has been on prescription therapy for the virus since she was three years old. She’s in Houston this week for the first Teen Leadership Forum. It’s a new program of the AIDS Foundation Houston aimed at helping teens with HIV prepare for life after high school. Katrina says she found out about her HIV status when she was 13 and the news was devastating.
Katrina wants to be a professional photographer so, as she puts it, she can save memories instead of destroy them. She and 13 other students are learning things any other teen would need to know: how to balance a checkbook, what to put on a resume, facts about college life. But AIDS Foundation Houston CEO Kelly McCann says they also address other issues unique to HIV positive teens. They may have questions about taking responsibility for their medical treatment, or when and how to tell a friend about their HIV status. Even things like job searches carry different implications for teens with HIV.
There are programs and camps for younger children with HIV/AIDS, but this is the first Texas program to focus on older teens with the disease. It’s a five-day retreat sponsored by the University of Houston. Katrina says she’s learned from it. But the best part for her has been the freedom to be herself.
Laurie Johnson Houston Public Radio News.