San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Girl with AIDS Granted Dying Wish

It appears that an 8-year-old Costa Rican girl suffering from AIDS has finally wished upon the right star. Despite some initial setbacks, the girl’s dream of going to Disney World and meeting Minnie Mouse will come true. After two times being denied a U.S. visa earlier this month – initially and on appeal (TT, Jan. 20) – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has granted a visa waiver allowing the girl to make her pilgrimage.

The trip will be funded by a generous sponsor through the Costa Rican nonprofit Fundación Vida, which offers emotional and economic support to AIDS victims and their families. The sponsor, who along with the girl wishes to remain unnamed, told foundation director Marlone Avila he was notified of the waiver last week.

“As soon as we have the papers, the next day we are leaving,” Avila told The Tico Times Tuesday.

Time is of the essence in this case. The little girl’s health is stable right now, something of a rarity in her young life that is filled with daily medicine cocktails, weekly trips to the hospital for tests and treatments, and periodic long-term hospital stays. The girl also started school Tuesday, in her second effort at first grade after missing many classes last year because of her illness.

Six years ago, the girl was abandoned by her parents, who also suffer from AIDS and passed the disease on to her. She now lives with her adopted family. This provoked the original visa denial – the girl didn’t have enough “familiar attachment” in Costa Rica, explained Avila, who will be the girl’s travel partner.

When the case was reviewed Jan. 19, Avila was told the visa would not be granted because it is illegal to grant visas to people with AIDS. However, the U.S. Consul appealed the case to Homeland Security, asking for a visa waiver. Although an initial estimate of months was given, the case was expedited.


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