JULY 2021
Improving the quality of life for children infected with and affected by HIV and AIDS through enriching programs, unforgettable experiences, and connections to the community.
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During the month of June, H.E.R.O. for Children, Inc. invited clients, community partners, and the general public to participate in two virtual town hall meetings entitled, "COVID-19 and The Vaccine" – held on June 19th and June 29th. The town halls were presented by our very own Board member and Camp High Five Medical Director, Sheryl Henderson, M.D., PhD. Dr. Henderson is a Virologist who received both her M.D. and Ph.D. degrees from Johns Hopkins University. She spent many years at Emory and the Grady Infectious Disease Program working with HIV-infected children, and continues such work in Wisconsin. Dr. Henderson is currently an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. Her presentations addressed topics such as COVID-19 statistics; vaccine hesitancy in the African-American community; how COVID-19 and the vaccine impact the HIV/AIDS community; myths about, differences between, and side effects of the vaccines; COVID-19 variants; vaccine boosters; and more.
Dr. Henderson opened the meetings with current statistical information on where we (USA) were presently with COVID-19 cases, and noted that Georgia was doing fairly well in regards to the number of new cases. Surprisingly, COVID-19 does not seem to affect people living with HIV differently from the general population. Next, she delved into how COVID-19 specifically affects the African-American community. For example, African-Americans are three times more likely to contract COVID-19 and two times more likely to die from the virus. Reasons include co-morbid health conditions such as Diabetes and Hypertension, and the fact that African-Americans are more likely to be essential workers, which increases their exposure to the virus. Dr. Henderson then discussed vaccine hesitancy in the African-American community – citing an October 2020 Kaiser Permanente survey which indicated that nearly half of African-Americans were not planning to take a vaccine due to distrust of the medical system. Dr. Henderson validated this distrust, referencing historical cases such as The Tuskegee Experiment (African-American males infected with Syphilis were promised free medical treatment, which they never received, as doctors studied the natural progression of the disease) and Henrietta Lacks (an African-American woman whose cancer cells were biopsied and studied without her knowledge or consent). Dr. Henderson went on to differentiate those cases from the circumstances surrounding the COVID-19 vaccines (i.e. vaccine testing and administration must now follow strict, ethical guidelines, people from every walk of life are receiving them, etc.) and encouraged everyone to get one of the vaccines.
Next, Dr. Henderson provided a more in-depth look into the coronavirus and how it affects the body. She noted that COVID-19 vaccines were created relatively quickly because the blueprints already existed, and scientists from all over the world worked together to deliver effective vaccines. She then described the three vaccines used in the United States and how they actually work – explaining the difference between mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) and DNA (Johnson & Johnson) delivery systems. She also explored the risks and benefits of the vaccines, dispelled the most popular myths regarding side-effects, and touched upon the new Delta variant and potential vaccine boosters. In closing, Dr. Henderson strongly urged everyone to get vaccinated, and emphasized the importance of reaching ‘herd immunity’ as the most effective way to bring this pandemic to an end.  Afterwards, she opened the floor for questions, which Donna Drakes, H.E.R.O.’s Executive Director, read from the chat section.
These town halls were interesting, informative, engaging, and well-received, as participants asked Dr. Henderson many thoughtful questions at the end of both sessions. H.E.R.O. for Children would like to thank everyone who attended these meetings, and give a special “Thank You!” to Dr. Sheryl Henderson for taking the time to prepare and deliver these important interventions to the HERO community.
We are excited to host Camp High Five’s 20th session this year!
Historically, Camp High Five offers children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS a one-week summer camp program during which they participate in a variety of recreational activities and educational workshops. However, this year, camp will look a bit different due to our commitment to making sure it is safe for everyone while the COVID-19 virus is still present in the world. 

Camp High Five will take place over a long weekend this fall (from Friday, October 8th through Monday, October 11th). For the first time, we will use the Camp Jekyll/Georgia 4-H site on Jekyll Island, Georgia. Child and volunteer admission criteria and applications are currently available on our website.
Virtual Tutors Needed
H.E.R.O. is openly recruiting volunteer tutors to assist our students in the areas of math, science, social studies, language arts, and reading. We would prefer volunteers who are at least 25 years old, and have prior teaching/tutoring experience. If you are interested, please email our Match and Development Coordinator – Nadia Eliacin – at nadia@heroforchildren.org.
Super HERO Mentors Needed
The Super HEROes Mentoring Program is a community-based, one-on-one mentoring program serving children infected with and affected by HIV/AIDS. The program provides these children with the opportunity to have a positive role model through a mentor and to strengthen their life skills, self-esteem, communication skills, goal-setting and academic performance.

Volunteer mentors needed to:
  • Spend one-on-one quality time with a child at least twice a month, a minimum of two hours each time (virtually during the pandemic).
  • Participate with the child in a bi-monthly group activity organized and sponsored by H.E.R.O. for Children (virtually during the pandemic).
  • Be a positive role model for the child.
  • Contribute to strengthening the child's self-esteem, social adjustment and life skills.