North Texas' Only Program for Kids With HIV and AIDS Loses Funding

A North Texas non-profit that's been caring for kids impacted by HIV and AIDS for 30 years says its program is at risk.

Bryan's House in Dallas cares for kids with several kinds of special needs, though a large percentage remain those impacted by HIV and AIDS. After all, that's why the program started three decades ago.

"We were established in Dallas right at the height of the HIV and AIDS crisis. There was no one to care for the children. There was such a stigma and there still is," CEO Abigail Erickson-Torres said.

Since the program's inception, new medication has meant HIV and AIDS is no longer a death sentence for children born with the disease. Still, they face a whole slew of developmental and physical symptoms that Bryan's House staff is equipped to help with.

"A lot of them can't walk, and then they begin to walk. A lot of them can't eat, and they begin eating. It's really good," said volunteer and former staff member Margaret Walker.

Walker has been there since the beginning. She cared for both the children living with HIV and AIDS, along with others, like a little girl who lost her birth mother to the disease.

"After we put all of the kids down, I was wondering why this little girl would just be sitting up in bed… just sitting there and not asleep. So I started getting her up just rocking her and singing to her and she went on to sleep, and it got to be an every night thing for me," Walker said.

That little girl became the first of two Walker would adopt from the program. That is why she continues to give her time today, calling Bryan's House home.

But like others, she's worried the program is in jeopardy after she learned the federal Ryan White Grant it's relied on for years no longer covers daily care.

"The reality is the children would have to be dropped in the middle of their education. The families may lose their jobs because they have to work. And because of the specialized care we offer here and specialized programming, there's nowhere else, literally," Erickson-Torres said.

Erickson-Torres said they're now short $117,000 needed to make it through the end of the program's school year in August. Without it, they can't afford the eight hours of care five days a week, that includes two meals and treatment when needed.

While she's hopeful she'll find a new source for the money in years to come, she said it will require donations from the community to get through this one. 

The David Crowley Foundation has pledged to match the first $50,000 in donations.

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