Texas: AIDS Organization Still Reaching Out to Women in Need

Nine years ago, four women who were affected/infected with HIV held the first support group meeting of Mujeres Unidas Contra el SIDA (Women United Against AIDS). Almost a decade later, Mujeres Unidas is the only Latina-centered HIV/AIDS program in San Antonio, said Executive Director Yolanda Rodriguez-Escobar.

Rodriguez-Escobar founded the support group in 1994 after seeing a specific need to reach out to Latinas affected by HIV/AIDS, including those who speak primarily or only Spanish. "Women have a lot more barriers to deal with," and their family responsibilities can limit their ability or inclination to seek outside help, said Rodriguez-Escobar.

Mujeres Unidas offers support groups for women and their families, programs for their children, and information about preventing HIV/AIDS and staying healthy after diagnosis. The nonprofit was recently awarded a $50,000, three-year grant by the Pfizer Foundation, as well as a one-year, $40,000 grant from the Levi Strauss Foundation.

In September 2002, Mujeres Unidas began the Madrinas, or godmothers, program, which pairs HIV-positive women with newly diagnosed women or women whose loved ones were recently diagnosed. "It's sort of like your buddy system," likened Rodriguez-Escobar. Sessions target women's specific needs, gynecological symptoms, depression, and family support services.

The women are required to contact each other at least twice a month, but many keep in touch on a more frequent basis. Because, according to Program Director Jessica A. Calderon, "a home setting is conducive to open discussion," Mujeres Unidas offers a $10 grocery voucher for women who host a session in their homes and a $5 voucher for women who attend.

For more information about Mujeres Unidas Contra el SIDA, telephone 210-738-3393.