How to Adopt an HIV+ Child
What is HIV+?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It is the virus that if left untreated, can progress and develop into AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and occurs when HIV advances and weakens the immune system to the point that the body can no longer fight off illness and infections.
There is currently no cure for HIV or AIDS, however, the medications that are now available to treat HIV are highly effective. HIV is now considered a chronic yet manageable condition in the United States and in other countries where treatment is readily available. Children who receive the proper treatment and medications have close to normal or normal life expectancies.
(Patrick Van Winkle, MD) ¹
Adopting an HIV+ Child:
America World's Haiti and India programs routinely see HIV+ children available for adoption. These children are often overlooked by families, primarily because of the misconceptions of having an HIV+ family member and the risks thought to be associated with this.
While the term "HIV+ child" usually makes people imagine a child that is very sickly, the reality is that children who are HIV+ and are receiving the medications, look just like any other child. When HIV+ children are receiving proper care and are on their medications (when needed), they enjoy very good health and do not need to be isolated from other children or be treated differently.
HIV+ children are generally not a risk to people around them, as HIV is not spread through casual contact. HIV is not spread through hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing toys, sneezing, coughing, sharing food, sharing drinks, bathing, swimming
or any other casual way.
HIV is spread through sexual contact, birth, breast milk and blood to blood contact (such as sharing needles). Children who are HIV+ can share food, drink, bath tubs, swimming pools, towels, beds, toys and all other household items with their family members and friends. HIV is not transmitted through urine, stool, snot, tears or sweat. While it is recommended and wise to handle the blood of an HIV+ child with care, it is also helpful to know that the risk of transmitting HIV through a bloody nose or skinned knee is very minimal. This is especially true for a child that is on HIV medications, because the medications can reduce the amount of HIV in a person's system to the point that the HIV is considered "undetectable", meaning there is only a very tiny amount of virus in the person's system.
How is HIV passed from one person to another?
1. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets.
2. HIV transmission can occur when blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters the body of an uninfected person. Intact, healthy skin is an excellent barrier against HIV and other viruses and bacteria.
These are the most common ways that HIV is transmitted from one person to another:
- Having sex with an HIV-infected person.
- Sharing needles or injection equipment with an injection drug user who is infected with HIV
- From HIV-infected women to their babies before or during birth, or through breastfeeding after birth.
Some interesting facts:
1. If a pregnant woman with HIV is properly medicated, there is less than a < 1% chance of passing the virus from mother to child. This is remarkable in that the baby is living in the mother’s bodily fluid for 9 months, combined with the trauma and mixing of blood during childbirth (from CDC).
2. Families who are living with someone who is HIV+ are not required nor encouraged to have annual HIV testing.
(Patrick Van Winkle, MD) ¹
About Haiti HIV+ Adoption:
In 2016, UNAIDS estimated that there are 7,200 children aged 0 to 14 living with HIV in Haiti, and 66,000 Haitian children under the age of 17 have been orphaned due to AIDS. These numbers can be discouraging, but they have gone down in recent years, and the number of children aged 0-14 who were newly infected with HIV in 2016 is listed as <1000. While it is encouraging to see this progress in Haiti, the day to day reality for the children who are HIV+ and parentless is still incredibly difficult, and the need for adoptive parents who are ready to love and care for these children is great.
The urgency becomes stronger when one discovers that of those 7,200 children living with HIV, UNAIDS estimates only 3,500 of them are receiving the medications they need to keep them healthy. And, due to the expense of the medication as well as the difficulty of access, it is likely that some orphanages struggle to ensure their HIV+ children are getting the treatments they need. The good news is that of those who receive treatment, 77% are continuing to faithfully take their medicine one year later. This is an essential piece of effective treatment and so it is encouraging to know that the care received is working, though it still needs to reach many more children.
Unlike India and China, Haitian adoption law does not allow for the adoption of pre-identified children. However, families are able to indicate through their child request an age range, gender preference, the number of children, and whether or not they would like to adopt an HIV+ child. There are many children with HIV eligible for international adoption in Haiti as well as many sibling sets where one or more of the children are HIV+. If you are feeling called to help meet this need and would like to bring a Haitian child with HIV into your family please fill out a free pre-application here on our website and be sure to indicate you are open to special needs including HIV. Haiti program staff are ready and waiting to help you through every step of the process. Contact our Haiti staff at Haiti@awaa.org.
Dr. Patrick Van Winkle, Medical Consultant for America World, Joins Us for a Recorded Webinar on Adopting an HIV+ Child:
India HIV+ Waiting Children:
There are many children of all ages available for adoption from India with HIV. We have successfully matched many babies under the age of 2 with families with approved home studies. Some of the babies we’ve advocated for who we’ve now matched with forever families include; “Kevin”, “Meena”, “Bradley”, “Shane” and “Eddie”. We expect to continue seeing many children of all ages with HIV available for adoption.
¹ Dr. Patrick Van Winkle is also an adoptive parent and his contact information is listed on the America World website as a reference for the China or Ethiopia program. He is also happy to speak with families from any program that are considering adopting an HIV positive child.