what i want you to know about adopting a child with HIV

What I Want You to Know is a series of reader submissions. It is an attempt to allow people to tell their personal stories, in the hopes of bringing greater compassion to the unique issues each of us face. If you would like to submit a story to this series, click here. Today’s guest posts is by Beth.
First things first- HIV+ adoption is on the rise. If the mention of HIV makes you think of immediate death, then you need to pull your knowledge of the disease out of the eighties, rip off its neon leg warmers, and introduce it to 2012. A little research will reveal that HIV is now like diabetes’ older tattooed brother- it can be a real bully, if left to its own devices, but with a stern talking to and some medication, it can be a managed, well-behaved disease. In fact, on current meds, the viral load (amount of HIV in the blood) is negligible. People with HIV are living normal life spans, getting married, having HIV negative babies, living life.

I want you to know how isolating it feels to hear people in the medical profession lecture me on how incredibly risky it is for us to adopt an HIV+ child and how we should prepare ourselves to get it, when all of the research we’ve done on our own indicates that the risk of transmission is so minimal that it’s a non-issue.

I want you to know that I plan on touching my daughter sans rubber gloves. I plan on tickling, hugging, kissing, sharing drinks, taking naps, cuddling, swimming, snuggling, and doing all of the other things that kids deserve to have.

I want you to know that it’s okay to ask us questions…within reason. We decided to not keep it a secret so that people could learn more about the disease and its modern treatments. If you’re curious, I’d be happy to direct you to more information.

I want you to know that it’s not okay to ask questions like, “Will anyone ever marry her?” because we can’t answer that. I want you to know that if you ever ask a question like this while she’s in earshot, I’ll rip off your face and throw it under the couch with the rest of my “faces of insensitive people” collection.

I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t take the time to learn more about this disease and its devastating effects before we looked into adopting a positive child. I want you to know that I think it SUCKS BIG TIME that people in developing countries are dying of this disease when the (expensive) medicines to control it exist. I think that it SUCKS BIG TIME that HIV positive women in developing nations are having to chose between watching their babies starve to death or risking the transmission of HIV through their breast milk. Across the globe, there are sick people who could get better but aren’t because they have a disease that has been highly politicized and “controversial” from the beginning.

And you need to know this- if blogs and lectures and articles and infectious disease doctors don’t change your mind, if you choose to persist in your belief that you will catch HIV if you’re in the same room with us, that our daughter is somehow less because she was born with a disease, then we probably won’t have room for you in our lives when our daughter finally arrives. She’s important to us. If we’re important to you, then you’ll get educated.

I want to assure you that we know HIV is a big deal, but we want you to know that it’s no longer as big a deal as you think.

Want more information?
- Project Hopeful
- Positively Orphaned
- AIDS map

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