Children with HIV can be adopted! Most people upon hearing this news think ‘I could never!’ That’s because most people have outdated information from the 1980s and 1990s and they still think HIV is easily transmitted and a ‘death sentence’. That was true in the early days and in resource poor settings without access to medication, but in the Western World, people living with HIV have access to treatment and they live long and healthy lives if they are diligent about taking their medication.
HUNDREDS of children with HIV are now being adopted and with the excellent medical treatment they receive in this country, they are expected to live long enough to meet their grandchildren. They can grow up, go to college, get married, and give birth to healthy babies if they so desire. All thanks to anti-retroviral (ARV) medication. Magic Johnson is a good example. He has been leading a perfectly normal healthy life with HIV for the past 20 years. That is because he takes his medicine every day and leads a healthy lifestyle. Anyone with health insurance can afford the same ARV meds that he takes. His viral load is ‘undetectable’ meaning that there is so little HIV virus running through his blood that it is not even detected by an HIV test! This is the norm – ask an adoptive parent who has a positive child on medication for a few months and they will tell you the same – “my child is undetectable!” This means they have normal immune systems if they have never had an AIDS diagnosis and they are not considered immunocompromised. People shake Magic Johnson’s hand, hug him, kiss him and use the toilet after him because HIV is not transmitted in any casual way. HIV is not transmitted by sharing food or drinks, sharing a bath, sleeping in the same bed, etc. It’s only transmitted in 3 ways – unprotected sex, intravenously (such as used needles) and from mother to infant. That’s it. Three ways. Unprotected sex. Intravenously. Mother to infant. It is not transmitted in a household or educational environment. HIV lives INSIDE the body and does not survive outside it’s host, so as Dr. Joel Gallant (Johns Hopkins) says “don’t spend time worrying about weird and obscure ways of transmitting the virus. The simple fact is that if no one shared needles and everyone wore condoms, the HIV epidemic would disappear.”
So what are the medical aspects of raising a child with HIV? Children take daily medication (usually twice per day) and see their specialist doctor quarterly. This family describes the medical aspects very well: http://hosfordfamily.blogspot.com/2010/06/living-with-hiv.html and this family shows a video of their toddler taking the meds: http://letitbetome.blogspot.com/2011/02/time-to-take-your-medicine_26.html
Thankfully, there is lots of great information about HIV adoption these days. Even PEOPLE magazine and the TODAY Show are featuring this topic: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/21134540/vp/41948392#41948392 There are several organizations and websites where you can find further information such as Yahoo HIV Adoption group.
HIV positive individuals who use antiretroviral therapy reduced the risk of transmitting HIV to their uninfected partners by 92%.