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HOLLYWOOD : Heterosexual HIV Support Group in Fairfax

January 13, 1994

A new support group for HIV-positive heterosexuals recently started meeting on the Westside, at least the third such group known to have been formed in the last two years.

Rico Porreca, a 50-year-old hemophiliac with AIDS, started the meetings in October at the Center for Living, a Fairfax District institute that helps people cope with terminal illnesses.

"To have AIDS in a heterosexual community is tough because there is no sense of community," said Porreca, a Fairfax resident. "We're not like black or Hispanic groups who have a common identity. Heterosexuals with HIV are hard to reach, are in denial or are desperately concerned about confidentiality."

Porreca, who has been HIV-positive for eight years, says many heterosexuals infected with the virus that causes AIDS have trouble joining gay support groups, where gay lifestyles, interests and goals can diverge from their concerns.

The Westside's first-known heterosexual HIV-positive support association, the Cosmos Circle, was started two years ago by a Mar Vista psychotherapist. It meets Wednesday nights in Mar Vista. Attendance usually numbers from 10 to 25 people.

For six months, the Jeffrey Goodman Special Care Clinic has conducted a support group for heterosexual couples at the Gay and Lesbian Community Center in Hollywood. Three couples regularly attend.

Porreca's group has five people who meet on Tuesday evenings.

"We're attempting to be more expansive, to create a feeling that there are more people out there like us," Porreca said. "By having a second Westside location, we're giving people more options and limiting the chance to make scheduling or geographic excuses and remain isolated."

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