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Few Young Illegal Immigrants Tested for HIV

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Posted: Jun 27, 2014 9:21 PM

Updated: Jun 30, 2014 2:57 PM

McALLEN - Children entering the country illegally are being tested for things like scabies and lice. Most, however, are not being tested for HIV.

The Valley AIDS Council is only testing children that may remain in the United States long-term.

"What's important for folks to realize is that those youths are going to be here long-term," said Oscar Lopez, director of education and prevention at VIC.

"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 said.

Lopez said hundreds have been tested for HIV and less than 1/2 percent of the results were positive for the virus.

He said some of those children may have contracted the disease during their journey from Central America.

Lopez said most families don't realize the dangers their children are exposed to when they make the journey north.

"(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.

Lopez said the children who test positive for the disease will get an education that will last a lifetime.

"Their education is actually much better than what is offered to youth at schools. Our state does not offer any education that is not abstinence only," he said.

"The kids that are in these programs actually get a better education than the rest of these kids," Lopez said.

Lopez said that some of the children who are not tested and are sent back to their country of origin have acquired HIV during their trip to the United States.

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

Lopez said those who do test positive for HIV and begin constant treatment under a physician have almost zero chance of spreading the virus.

For more information, call VAC at 888-311-2437 or 800-333-7432.

Topics: valley aids council, rio grande valley, illegal, immigration, central, america

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