“Adopt a Child with HIV?  Certainly Not!”

“Adopt a Child with HIV?  Certainly Not!”

Our family has adopted from Ethiopia and India. When my husband and I adopted from Ethiopia we were asked if we were open to HIV. Certainly not! The idea seemed so scary and daunting. Apparently, my information was totally 1980s--I was convinced that death would come quickly to the child and probably to my husband and I since we'd, of course, catch it.

We visited the orphanage and the children were sharing bloody shoes, I wanted to request that our son not play with any child with HIV. But I could recognize that would be a ridiculous request, so I (thankfully) kept that to myself. In the end, we brought home our healthy son.

After coming home with our little guy, I started hearing more about HIV. I heard that families adopted these children--really shocking to me at the time, I read an article about Project Hopeful (an organization that advocates for kids with HIV/AIDS.) I read in their article that HIV had never been passed from a child to another family member in a normal family situation. I can't tell you how stunned I was by that! We started learning more and more and as we did we started becoming more and more open to the idea.

I remember telling my mom about the possibility of us adopting a positive child… "Isn't there someone else to do that?"

We did adopt a child with HIV and then another one, and my mom has become a huge advocate for children with HIV. They need medications when they wake up and when they go to sleep. They aren't sick all the time-- actually, in my experience much less than their peers. Once their viral loads are good, their immune systems are the same as a healthy child. Personally, medications cost us about $50 per month per child. We go to a specialist once every quarter. HIV is one of the most fragile viruses, it dies within seconds of touching the air and once the loads are undetectable there isn't much of the virus in their blood. There is no HIV/AIDS virus in tears, boogers, vomit, poop, pee, it isn't passed through casual contact. One tough thing about HIV that is common is the first six months of trying to get your child to take the medications, it can be really hard. Eventually, they learn they have to take it and then it becomes easier. Also, when children aren't on the medication when they are young, some minor cognitive delays can occur (we haven't seen that in our family- but have been told it is common). Children react to the medications in different ways, dealing with some of those side effects can be the biggest hurdle of HIV, my children both struggle with sleeping (we need melatonin) and one has a lack of appetite.

Every family varies greatly with whole they disclose their child's medical status to, this is a super personal choice and there isn't any "right" answer. Our family has decided to tell our families and friends we see at least every month. In our lives, we've experienced amazing love and acceptance by the people around us. We're so glad that God opened our hearts to HIV/AIDS, our family can be part of something amazing in people's lives. Children that born internationally with HIV/AIDS have much less opportunity.

When I look at our children, I don't see positive and I don't have any fear (and I am the opposite of germaphobe.) I just see my kids and I love them so much!