Wednesday, June 6, 2012

HIV and Orphans

Do you know what HIV is?  You've heard of it, of course, but do you really know what it is?  A lot of us don't know the facts about HIV.  I didn't know what the difference was between HIV and AIDS until maybe a year or two ago.  HIV seems really scary to a lot of people.  What about you?  Think about these questions and be very, very honest with yourself about the answers.  What would you do if you found out that a friend of yours had HIV?  Would you want your child to be friends with an HIV positive kid?  How would you feel about sharing your home with an HIV positive person?  What about sharing a pool?  Eating utensils?  Would you want to play on the same sports team?  If you found out that someone you know has HIV, would your opinion of that person change?

Maybe you honestly don't know the answer to any of these questions.  A lot of people don't.  That's why so many orphans with HIV and no other diagnosed special needs get overlooked for adoption over and over again.

So what is HIV?  It stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.  It's the virus that eventually causes AIDS.  However, that does NOT mean that every person with HIV has AIDS or will get AIDS.  The HIV virus weakens the immune system.

A person can get the HIV virus through unprotected sexual contact, sharing needles, and through birth or breastfeeding.  That's it.  Now, I do know of parents who don't allow their children to share toothbrushes because of the potential for gums to bleed, but that swimming pool that I mentioned?  Not a risk.  Sharing a home?  Not a risk.  Sports teams?  Not a risk.  Eating utensils?  Not a risk.  Toilets?  Again, not a risk.  See where I'm going with this?  The problem is that so many people worry about non-existent risks that they pass over deserving children.  This is why so many children with a manageable disease still wait for families.

And yes, I did say "manageable."  Believe it or not, people with HIV can live very normal lives.  They can play sports, have jobs, get married, have kids (medication can prevent mother-to-child transmission), and have a normal lifespan.  I'm going to be completely honest right now.  If I didn't know the truth about HIV, I'd be so afraid to adopt an HIV positive child because I wouldn't want any of my babies to die young, but HIV is NOT a death sentence.  Anti-Retroviral Therapy and regular visits to the doctor for check-ups and blood tests help people with the HIV virus to live normal lives.  In fact, children taking Anti-Retroviral pills often end up with a viral load that's so low that it becomes undetectable in their bodies.

The waiting orphans with the HIV virus carry this disease only because their mothers had it before them.  Sadly, the social stigma that surrounds HIV causes many people to only see the disease but not the person.  I encourage you do research further into the subject and consider pursuing the adoption of one of the many orphans who wait simply because of their HIV positive status.  If you want a good place to start and see where I got my sources from, check out the Project Hopeful website.